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Kiwis support own, champion

SALEM, Ore. -- It's a long way from Auckland to America, but 13 Kiwis traveled almost 7,000 miles from New Zealand to cheer on their countrymen at the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series presented by Carhartt.

Grant Feist, who works for STIHL New Zealand, was one of the flag-wavers in the bunch that came 7,000 miles to cheer on Jason Wynyard, David Bolstad, Dion Lane and Shane Jordan at the Oregon State Fair.

"It's just awesome being here, supporting our countrymen," Feist said.

All four Kiwis would have made it to Sunday's final if not for Jordan's disqualification in the hot saw, the final event Saturday.

"We hoped to have four out the 12," STIHL New Zealand territory manager Anthony Mildren. "But we can still have another champion."

And they did. After Americans had a 12-year run of winners, including Mel Lentz's six titles, New Zealand has dominated the sport with Bolstad and Wynyard tag-teaming as champions over the past 13 years. Wynyard's ninth title thrilled the Kiwis.

Feist, whose wife is from Colorado and took him to visit the Grand Canyon in 2006, said New Zealand is just a natural to develop great lumberjacks.

"It's the environment they're brought up in," he said. "A lot of pine forest and lumber industries."

The timber industries in New Zealand aren't what they once were, he said, but China and Korea continue to purchase a lot of wood.

The Kiwi crew spent a couple hours getting to Auckland, where they took off for a 12-hour flight to Los Angles. From there, it was a two-hour jaunt to Portland, where they boarded a mini-bus for the hour-ride to Salem.

One reason they made the trip was it's difficult to get lumberjack action on TV.

"If it's not rugby, it's not on TV in New Zealand," Feist said. "Unless you have Sky TV, you'll never see it."

So the trip, costing each $3,000 including all travel and hotels, was worth seeing their countrymen perform.

Super fans

Her learning to throw an axe got them interested, and now John and Betty Moore are "Super Fans."

The couple from Tyner, Ky., has attended STIHL events for the past six years, carrying signs and shouting words of encouragement.

Betty was taught how to throw an axe by STIHL competitors Mike Sullivan and Arden Cogar Jr. at a wood expo in Kentucky, and the Moores were subsequently invited to the championships to see what the competitions were all about.

"They told us you need to come and see one of the competitions live," Betty said.

Enjoying their first in Virginia Beach, the Moores have been back each year. They stay from start to finish each day and say they enjoy the family atmosphere.

"All the competitors, the STIHL people and ESPN is such a tight-knit family," John said.

The first springboard event of the day started and their attention went to cheering American Will Roberts.

"Go, get that wood!" Betty shouted. "Drive it. Drive it, Will!"

After Will finished, they continued their cheering as Australian Justin Beckett chopped. "C'mon Justin. Finish," John yelled.

The Moores' devotion to STIHL goes into their garage as well. John said his grandfather "insisted I learned how to run a chainsaw and an axe when I was 15."

Betty boasted having the STIHL KombiSystem and most of the attachments. They recently had five acres cleared on their property to build a pond and John kept busy cutting the downed trees into logs with his STIHL chainsaw.

"He's got his and I've got mine," Betty said. "I've got two."

Lurch dissed

Running around the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS compound announcing the ongoings and tossing out gear is Steve Scott, better known as Lurch. He's a fan favorite, at least when he's throwing out footballs, hats and T-shirts.

Relying on his notebook full of informational tidbits, he misplaced it momentarily and wasn't shy about telling the crowd.

"Till I find that book, I've got nothing to say."

A loud cheer erupted from the hundreds in the stands.

Moments later when he announced that he found his book there was a collective "Ohhh."