Lumberjack debate

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ALBERTA, Mich. — On Saturday, neither the brisk air in Michigan's Upper Peninsula nor the constant mist at Michigan Technological University's Ford Center dampened the spirits of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Series competitors or their fans.

The early fall weather, coupled with leaves that appeared to literally change overnight, seemed to energize all in attendance. Adam LaSalle, a senior at the University of Wisconsin — Stevens Point, put his newfound energy to use best, beating the entire field and capturing the day's crown.

The event, hosted at Michigan Tech's 57th annual Midwest conclave, pitted a healthy sampling of Midwestern colleges and universities against each other to determine which school's representative would earn a ticket to the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Championship in June of 2009.

But even before the competition across the stock saw, underhand chop, single buck and standing block chop disciplines began, LaSalle and Michigan Tech's Trevor Hahka stood out as the favorites among their fellow competitors and forestry students. And much like the presidential debate which occurred the previous night in Oxford, Miss., the grueling contest would rage well into the evening hours.

On one side of the podium, LaSalle arrived at the competion as a previous STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Series contender. Representing Paul Smith's College in 2006, LaSalle won the Northeast qualifying event and advanced to the championship. With a year of experience under his belt, the lumberjack held an obvious edge over the rest of the lumberjacks.

Opposing LaSalle, Trevor Hahka, a hometown hero and second-year graduate student at Michigan Tech, served as capable challenger. Despite his partisan support, Hahka's maturity and significant stature made him the obvious crowd favorite.

But at the end of the day, LaSalle's experience paid off. He was crowned the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Series Midwest champion with an impressive 31 points after winning the stock saw, underhand chop and standing block chop disciplines and placing second in the single buck.

"The biggest challenge I faced today was having to compete in the conclave events and the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Series," LaSalle said. "The weather was also a challenge."

With 19 points, Southern Illinois University's Caleb Crocker took second place after gathering steady points despite a disqualification in the stock saw. Eli Engelken of the University of Missouri tied for third place with Michigan Tech's Hahka at 18 points. Ferron Fisher of the University of Minnesota rounded out the top five with 17 points.

After the last discipline was completed and it was clear that LaSalle had a victory, Hahka humbly recognized the champion.

"I just wanted to give him a run for his money," the Michigan Tech student said, laughing. "I feel like I did good for my first time competing. I'm proud of myself."

Just like any debate, this competition was hard-fought and well-deserved by the winner. But on Saturday, LaSalle showed he was in a league of his own and a true chopping and sawing master.

The Wisconsin senior was smart to not take all the credit, however. He also made sure to recognize the campaign support which helped him achieve the title.

"I'm proud of my forestry team though. I brought ten of them with me. It's their first time at a competition like this and we've done great," LaSalle said. "I would've liked to see one of them to compete in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Challenge."