SUNY Cobleskill Woodsmen Team is a ‘motley crew’

The Daily Star

April 24, 2014

By Jessica Reynolds Staff writer

Lindsey Leisenring is only five-foot-six and 120 pounds but she once climbed a 30-foot tree in 11 seconds, she said Wednesday.

Leisenring is a senior at the SUNY Cobleskill and one of 30 members in the school’s Woodsmen Team. During the upcoming SUNY Cobleskill Celebrates the Great Outdoors weekend on Saturday and Sunday, the team will compete at two large events: the well-known STIHL® Timbersports Northeast Collegiate Qualifier and The 68th Woodsmen Collegiate Spring Meet.

Linda Serdy, one of the team’s advisers, said the close-knit Woodsmen Team reminds her of the kids from the ’90s film “The Sandlot.” The 12 women and 16 men that make up the team come from a vast array of backgrounds and majors and get together five to six times a week to practice for competitions all over the Northeast. They are a motley crew, Serdy said.

Unlike other athletic teams at the college, the Woodsmen are a club and raise the majority of their own money for equipment and travel expenses, Serdy said. Instead of practicing indoors like most teams, Cobleskill’s Woodsmen practice in a field at the college, which requires shoveling in the winter. The club members are very dedicated, yet still manage to maintain strong grade point averages.

“They are just amazing,” Serdy said, “And extremely disciplined. No matter where we go to compete, whether it’s Paul Smith, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry or the University of Connecticut, they’re the face of SUNY Cobleskill.”

Recently, the school’s Woman’s 1 team won first place at a competition at SUNY ESF, a large accomplishment in a sport that has been increasingly gathering momentum, Serdy said. The club recruits anyone who is interested when they are freshmen, she said.

“People always start out saying, ‘Oh, I can’t chop wood!’ and we say ‘Sure you can!’ We have some small girls on the team, but they are very physically fit and compete alongside the big guys.”

George Wilkinson, the club’s other adviser, said the sport combines precision and speed and employs many traditional woodsmen techniques, such as dropping trees, cutting into them and moving logs. There are also more competition-oriented events, such as the ax throw, where participants throw a razor-sharp ax to hit a target 20 feet away; the cross cut, during which two-member teams cut into a log with a two-person saw; and the pole climb, which, Leisenring said, is her best event.

Leisenring, from Waterloo, is an agricultural business management major and the vice president of the Woodsmen club. She spoke to The Daily Star on Wednesday while in Cherry Valley, where she and other club members were collecting wood for this weekend’s competition, including a 40-foot red pine tree for the pole climb. Leisenring said she got involved with the club about a year ago and quickly learned the safety techniques and skill set that are necessary to compete. She said she has gotten to meet many different people through the competitions and made dear friends. Her favorite part of the sport is the fact that it’s extremely competitive but, at the same time, has a family aspect to it.

“It’s not like in high school sports where teams are rivals with each other,” Leisenring said. “We’re friends with the other teams. We cheer each other on and get together with them outside of competitions. They are some of my closest friends.”

Other events in the weekend’s lineup include the 49th Annual Schoharie County Maple Festival, the 19th Annual Fish & Wildlife Festival and Earth Day Celebration and the second annual SUNY Cobleskill Agriculture Fair at the Cobleskill Fairgrounds. The Woodsmen Collegiate Spring meet will take place at the Cobleskill Fairgrounds on Friday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Timbersports Northeast Collegiate Qualifier will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at the fairgrounds.

Wilkinson said ten to 12 schools will be competing in the events. Cobleskill’s team has been working hard all semester at competitions and community demonstrations, he said, and is excited for the events.

“It’s a lot of work,” Wilkinson said, “but a lot of fun. We’ll be out there swingin’ axes all day.”