The cleanest stick around

SALEM, Ore. -- Cleanliness is next to godliness, they say. For the eight climbers competing in Friday's quarterfinals of the speed climb at the 2010 STIHL Timbersports National Championships in Salem, Ore., though, cleanliness meant staying around for another day.

Brian Bartow, Guy German, Cassidy Scheer and Stirling Hart put together the cleanest, most consistent quarterfinal climbs up and down the 60-foot speed-climb trees at the Oregon State Fair to advance to Saturday's semifinals.

"All my climbs were clean," said Bartow, from Lake Oswego, Ore. "I probably need to be faster in the next round, but I couldn't ask for a better, cleaner day."

Bartow was the only climber to break the 12-second mark, posting an 11.66 in the morning qualifier. He finished with 12.82 in the head-to-head quarterfinal run against Bryce Smith (19.62).

"From the start, you're just paying attention to the starters' tones, trying to get a quick start and a fast turnover," Bartow said. "You're trying to stay relaxed so when you start approaching the top, you're hitting the rope so you're not taking an extra flip, where you can just reach for it, hit it, and start back down. You don't want to take an extra half-flip at the top of the tree."

That's exactly what Canadian climber Stirling Hart did in his second climb against Andrew Mattison. After ripping through a 12.03 in the first climb, Hart double-flipped at the top of the tree against Mattison to make sure his rope hit the required orange marker before starting his descent. The double-flip cost Hart precious milliseconds, but his 12.84 was good enough to overcome Mattison, who finished in 13.57.

"I got to the top and the last thing I wanted to do was be disqualified, so I went back up and made sure I hit that line," Hart said. "Running clean is important. I've made it to the finals in the past, been the favorite because I had the fastest times, and didn't run clean. Something happened. I'd slip or miss a line or DQ. You can't take it lightly. You have to be sharp all the time."

Guy German had the second-fastest time of the day with a 13.12 in his last climb, against Wade Stewart. German, from Omaha, Neb., started the morning with a 13.47 in the seeding run and then steadily improved from there.

"You want your first run to be a solid run, but my second run was even better," German said. "I knocked a couple of tenths off and felt like I was making progress. Most of that progress is in coming out of the tree. My third climb I was even better yet, which is a good sign to me because it shows I'm relaxing more and more. It's a confidence builder to go through a day like to today and improve through three runs."

Cassidy Scheer locked up the final semifinal spot with a 13.73, beating Darren Hudson (14.75).

Saturday's semifinal bracket: Saturday's competition sets up like this: Bartow climbs against German and Hart faces off against Scheer.

"I've been in the finals against [Scheer] and he's beaten me every single year," Hart said. "This is a pretty even field. Everybody who made it to the next round is capable of winning it."