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Aussie lumberjills in US competition

On the fields of Auburn in the US, Tasmanian met Pennsylvanian in a friendly competition of lumberjill skills. Source: Our Midland

Amanda Beams flew 20 hours to the US from Tasmania while LaVonne Mikloiche, drove almost 10 hours from northwest Pennsylvania to compete in the inaugural Woodcutter’s Ball Women’s Professional Lumberjack Competition at Auburn City Park.

“Tasmania is a little island right underneath Australia. We’re holding Australia up, we are,” joked the effervescent Ms Beams. “Without Tasmania, Australia would sink straight to Antarctica.”

On a gorgeous, sunny, Michigan day, she was enjoying the preliminaries for one of the few women-only competitions.

“Most sports you go do your thing. This is more like a big family. If you need something and somebody has it, they’ll loan it to you. We’re competitors out on the field, but here, we’re family,” said Ms Mikloiche as she chatted under the US team’s tent.

Ms Beams agreed.

“I enjoy the whole competition, meeting all the different people and the places you go,” she said.

“It is just a great atmosphere. Everyone will help you out some way or another. You certainly have a beautiful country and all the people are great.”

Even though both MsBeams and Ms Mikloiche enjoy the entire event, each has their favorite part. For Ms Mikloiche, it’s the modified chain saw.

“When you hear that saw start up, the adrenaline gets going and the power gets flowing,” said Ms Mikloiche with an excitement and gleam in her eyes.

“It has to be a “born” chain saw. It had to start out as a chain saw. Then you can change the carburetor, or do pretty much anything to it. As long as it was born a chain saw.”

Ms Beams enjoys the underhand chop.

“You stand on top of the log, cut between your feet,” she said.

“Then halfway through you turn around and cut the rest from the other side.”

The training and travel can be very taxing, as Ms Mikloiche will compete in approximately 36 events a season.

“There is a lot of short endurance bursts that you need to use a lot of strength and muscles for,” she said.

“To train, I go to a trainer two times a week and at the house, we train pretty much all of our events throughout the week.”

Both competitors are following in the footsteps of their fathers.

“I was raised in it,” said Ms Mikloiche. “My dad did it when I was younger. We’re three generations now. My son, 17, is competing.”

But it was dad who got the ax swinging.

“He actually worked at a sawmill most of his life and went to an expo with his boss and said, ‘I can do this,’” said Ms Mikloiche.

“He went out to the local hardware store, bought a double bitted ax. Little by little everything built up and now we travel across the country and the world to compete.”

That travel has taken Ms Mikloiche to Australia, where Ms Beams’ father started competing.

“It’s purely a family sport for me,” she said. “For dad, lumberjacking was his livelihood. When I was a youngster, girls didn’t do it. We sat on the outside and watched dad.

“The women’s event has really grown … We also have two boys back home and they compete.”

Both ladies will competed in each of the nine events, which included the bow saw, Jill and Jill crosscut sawing, single buck, standing block chop, single crosscut sawing, axe throw and the international relay (underhand chop to Jill and Jill saw to single crosscut saw to Jill and Jill saw to underhand chop).

“I have a go at everything,” said Ms Beams.

“When the American girls come to Australia, they have a go at everything and that was a team condition. If you come over you do everything.”

As team captain for the Aussies, Ms Beams had one last charge for her team, which summed up the entire competition: “Just have some fun. Just have some fun.”