A stump above the rest

Mary-Kate Burkert

Justin Edwards, senior in forestry, is a stump above the rest when it comes to timber sports and the Forestry Club at Iowa State. He is president of Xi Sigma Pi, the Forestry Honor Society and secretary of the Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters.

He first got involved with the Forestry club after he transferred from the Des Moines Area Community College in the fall of 2009. “I didn’t know anyone in the forestry department, and it was an easy way for me to get to know fellow students,” Edwards said. “It was also a great way to become an active member of the department.”

“I didn’t start training or really competing until this past April, after Iowa State’s Aaron Kienol took second in the STIHL Collegiate Timbersports Series at Purdue,” he said. “Someone had to step up to the plate to take on next year’s competitors. Throughout the summer, Aaron has been coaching me through vigorous weight training sessions, guiding me through a variety of chopping and sawing disciplines. Both of us, along with Laura Helmich, have been working with timber sport professionals and competing at professional competitions throughout the Midwest, from Clinton, Iowa, to Park Rapids, Minn.”

Helmich, timbersports chair of the Forestry Club, added, “Training with Justin and Aaron this summer was great because we all pushed each other to suck less and do better. This was our team motto.”

Edwards went on to joke, “I won 25 dollars at Park Rapids, so I can be considered semi-pro!”

When questioned about his favorite aspect of timbersports he said, “The silence before I bring the rain. Once you step up into position to chop or saw and the cadence begins, everything goes silent. The adrenaline flows quickly through your veins and your focus narrows on one goal: getting the job done as fast as possible. Those three seconds are everything. That is my favorite part.”

Not only do Edwards’ adrenaline flow and his focus become clear, but “Justin thinks that his beard gives him special powers and is the key to his ability to wield an ax,” Helmich shared.

Edwards admits that timbersports can be challenging. “This sport isn’t for everyone; it takes time and dedication to really comprehend the disciplines required for correctly using this equipment. There’s a lot to think about in this sport than in many others. When you step up to compete, everything you’ve been working for is reflected through your speed, precision, accuracy, power and repetition. In individual events, there is no one else to depend on except yourself and your time is reflected in how well you’ve practiced, that’s the true competition — practice.”

The benefits he has received through his participation in the Forestry Club and in timbersports are endless. “[It] has provided me a unique opportunity to meet and work with professionals, travel and network with other peers, and make lasting friendships in Forestry. I have already seen an improvement in myself and among others who are active members within the Forestry Club and the department of natural resource ecology and management. It has also allowed me to find out about different career paths. In the end, the real benefit from my involvement is the comradery and team building dynamics that result from being involved in such competition.”

Edwards is enthusiastic for this coming timbersports season. “The beginning of October marks the beginning of the Collegiate Timbersports season. The timbersports team will be up at Cloquet, MN competing against Minnesota, Steven’s Point, and several teams. The best competitors will be from Point, who we have a close relationship with and have been competing with over the summer. The competitions will be throughout the year at a variety of locations throughout the Midwest and in Kentucky,” he said.