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CSU logging Choptoberfest marks revival of sport

Annabelle+Thomas+and+Eva+Salm+practice+for+the+two+buck+event+where+they+compete+on+how+fast+they+can+saw+a+cookie+off+of+the+log%2C+while+also+keeping+the+width+even+Sept.+29.
Collegian | Julia Percy
Annabelle Thomas and Eva Salm practice for the two buck event in which they compete to see how fast they can saw a cookie off of the log while also keeping the width even Sept. 29. Some members of the Colorado State University logging team watched and gave advice from the side.

There was something different in the air at the Colorado State logging field this weekend, and it wasn’t just the sawdust and WD-40.

On Friday, Oct. 6, and Saturday, Oct. 7, schools from all across the western United States flocked to Fort Collins to participate in CSU’s annual Choptoberfest competition.

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This year, however, Choptoberfest featured more loggers than ever before.

“This is probably one of the biggest events we’ve ever hosted,” said Chris Graham, the team’s former president. “We’re around 80 collegiate competitors here today.”

Each logging season, various schools from across the country host competitions in an attempt to make a bid to host the Association of Western Forestry Club’s Logging Conclave, the national collegiate tournament of timbersports.

“This is kind of a big push to prove (ourselves) to everybody,” Graham said.

CSU has not hosted the Western Conclave since before the COVID-19 pandemic, but their historically high number of members gives them an advantage no other team can quite match.

“When I took over the team in the fall of 2021, there (were) five official members, including myself,” Graham said. “Now it’s around 50.”

This unprecedented number of members has created an environment that has allowed each member, as well as the sport as a whole, to thrive at CSU.

“The amount of help that we’re all getting from a bunch of people — it’s just great,” veteran logger Mikaela Lippon said. “It’s going to make a huge difference in the long run.”

This environment allows competitors like Lippon to find new success in their events.

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“I feel like I’ve hit a personal record each (event),” Lippon said. “I’m really happy with how everything’s going so far.”

It wasn’t just CSU athletes who embraced the Choptoberfest environment. Members of teams across the western U.S. praised the competition’s success and atmosphere.

“CSU always puts on a great competition,” Oregon State logger Angus Nicholson said. “They’ve got a lot of people helping.”

The boundaries of team affiliation did not stop athletes from cheering for every competitor, regardless of whose team they belonged to. Many members even found new friendships with their own competitors from other states.

“These people live 17 hours away from me, but they’re just happy to help and happy to be here,” Graham said. “I don’t think in any other team sport you’ll find people so supportive of each other.”

This mutual support allows the sport to see a resurgence in spite of its fading popularity over the years. By creating a tight-knit community, each athlete feels motivated to keep coming back day after day to improve themself and be a part of a larger group of dedicated teammates. 

“I’ve met so many people I’m going to be friends with for life, whether that’s on our team or somebody else’s team,” said Hannah Zajac, the recruitment chairperson for CSU. “That’s why I keep coming out here.”

For athletes like Zajac, Choptoberfest represents the opportunity to connect with other loggers and attempt to improve themselves. 

“Last (Western) Conclave, my partner and I disqualified, so we wanted to redeem ourselves this time,” Zajac said.

Zajac and her partner competed in the double buck, an event that sees two loggers wield a large saw to make a crosscut through a log as fast as possible while maintaining a consistent angle.

“It went really nice, so that’s a win in our book,” Zajac said.

With the rousing success of Choptoberfest, CSU hopes to set a trend that allows the logging team to prosper into the future, inviting new members to continue the traditions of support and hard work that create an environment like the one demonstrated this weekend. 

“I don’t think I would be where I am today if this wasn’t a part of my life,” Graham said. “The more I can pay that forward and give it to the freshmen to let them carry it on, that’s what matters most.”

Will Engle can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @willengle44.

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