June 4, 2007

‘Jacks’ and ‘Jills’ give it their all

Sports Complex hosts third annual lumberjack invitational


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
Erica Schreiner, of Fulton, competes in the crosscut event Saturday at the Crown City Lumberjack Invitational at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex. Even though Schreiner has been competing in lumberjack competitions for 17 years, she still considers it “just a hobby.”

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Competitors from around the United States, Canada and Australia gathered Saturday at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex to show off their skills with both modern and traditional lumberjack tools and techniques.
The Crown City Lumberjack Invitational held its third annual competition Saturday, hosting 20 competitors in 11 events.
As avid competitors taking part in this year’s games, Peg and Dave Engasser, of Virgil, who finished in first and fourth places, respectively, in their gender categories, began organizing the event in 2005. They had traveled all over the country and world for competitions and wanted to bring one event a year closer to home.
“We’d rather travel six miles than 2,500 miles,” Peg Engasser said, while taking a break between events.
Engasser said this year’s invite played host to 13 men and seven women who competed in events such as axe throwing, wood chopping, hand sawing and chain sawing.
Engasser said the men and women in the event compete in the same skills, but only against their own gender. She said some of the wood blocks the women cut through are slightly smaller than the ones the men compete with.
“The competitors love this,” Peg Engasser, said of holding the event in the Sports Complex in Cortlandville. “There’s no sun, there’s no mud and there’s no bugs.”
Engasser added that the glass around the hockey rink where the events take place also creates a natural safety barrier between the crowd and the fans.
Like Peg and Dave Engasser, many of the competitors are married couples who travel and train for the events together.
Mark Jones, of Nashville, N.C., came to this year’s event for the first time with his wife, Trisha, and the couple’s 4-month-old daughter, Molly. He said he and his wife have been competing at events around the country for nine years and that his wife was back competing less than two months after Molly was born.
Mark Jones said he grew up on a sawmill and he was introduced to lumberjack competitions at Virginia Tech, where he competed at the club sport level.
“I manage a sawmill,” he said. “My work gives me all the training I need.”
Erica Schreiner, of Fulton, another newcomer to the Cortland event, said she has been competing for 17 years and also began competing on a college team. Schreiner, who works at the Soil and Water Conservation District in Oswego County as an educator, said she and her husband — who was not present for this year’s event — began lumberjacking at Finger Lakes Community College.
“This is my first year,” she said of the Crown City Invitational. “The crowd is very supportive.”
Like other competitors, Schreiner said she has traveled all over the country and into Canada for different competitions, usually entering anywhere from 25 to 30 per year.
“I really like the crosscut saw,” she said, explaining that she does not really favor any one event over the others.
Schreiner said she trains at home with her husband and the two have set up places in the basement and garage to practice the various events.
The Cortland Regional Sports Council rented the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex and marketed the event, at a total cost of nearly $10,000, said Machell Phelps, executive director of the council.
Phelps said the event attracts tourists to the community.
Saturday’s competition drew nearly 500 people, Phelps said. About 700 tickets were sold the first year of the event and about half that amount were sold last year, she said. 
Harry Sullivan of Mexico, Oswego County, came for the first time to watch his nephew Matt Bush compete. Bush went into this year’s competition as the defending champion, winning again this year.
Sullivan said he enjoys watching the competitions and is glad to have one relatively close to home.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s a lot more endurance than people really think.”




Man dies in crash on 281

Staff Reporter

HOMER — A Weedsport man was found dead Sunday morning in his overturned Jeep Cherokee after falling asleep at the wheel, police said. Police said autopsy results showed he had been using cocaine.
Brian S. Donahue, 37, was dead on the scene when rescue officials from the TLC_Emergency Medical Services and State Police found his sport utility vehicle overturned around 7:20 a.m. in a field off Route 281, State Police said.
Homer Fire Chief Phil Hess said the accident occurred about a mile and a half south of Cold Brook Road.
“We found the vehicle overturned,” he said this morning. “We did extrication to get the vehicle open.”
Hess said a coroner was called to the scene.
Police said another driver saw the crash and called 911.
Autopsy results showed Donahue died of head, neck and back injuries, police said.
Police said Donahue was traveling south on Route 281 in Homer when he fell asleep. Police said Donahue failed to make a right curve. His vehicle crossed the northbound lane and veered off from the east side of the road and into a ditch, where he drove over an embankment and briefly became airborne. Donahue’s SUV struck a fence and utility pole before it came to a rest on its roof in a field, police said.


Young anglers net fish, sunshine at Casterline Pond

Staff Reporter

HOMER — It was a beautiful day for fishing Saturday as nearly 100 local youths spent the morning at Casterline Pond for an outing of competitive angling.
This year the Hooked on Fishing Derby gave away the first Bob Atkins Memorial Angler of the Year Award along with first- through third-place prizes for the biggest fish caught in three age groups, and door prizes for every participant.
The event hosts youths 15 years old and younger who all try to reel in the day’s biggest catch. The Cortland Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America has held the derby for nearly 30 years.
The new award was created in honor of Bob Atkins, of McGraw, who died over the winter. Don Jones, of the McGraw chapter of the Cortland County Federation of Sportsman, said event organizers wanted to honor Atkins because of his lifelong commitment to the Solon and McGraw chapters of their organization.
“He was very active in the federation and he loved to fish,” Jones said of Atkins. “He would rather be fishing than doing most anything. He was a very nice man and we miss him.”
Benjamen Pallone, 7, of Cortlandville, was the first recipient of the trophy, which was the largest of the awards at the event and is nearly as big as he is. Organizers said they give the award to the participant with the most enthusiasm for the day, no matter how many fish the child may have caught.
Pallone, a first-grader at St. Mary’s School, was all smiles when he won the award, just as organizers said he had been all day.
“I thought I wouldn’t get it,” Pallone said, hugging the trophy. “It’s going on the top shelf.”
Pallone said he is a catch-and-release fisherman who caught six fish on the day, including a 5-inch sunfish.
“It’s very well put together,” said Harold Pallone, Benjamen’s father. “He loved it.”
The Izaak Walton League, the Cortland Youth Bureau, the Cortland County Federation of Sportsmen and The Homer Lions Club teamed up to sponsor the event.
Megan Conaway, recreation supervisor of the Youth Bureau, said the event hosted 98 youths this year, almost twice the number of children that participated last year. She said cold and rainy weather put a damper on last year’s festivities but the sunshine helped make this year a success.
Jeff More, 15, of Cortland, and Dan Van Winkle, 13, of Homer, both said this year’s fishing was an improvement from last year.
“I went for a little but not for too long. It was too cold,” More said of last year’s fishing, holding a still flopping 1-foot 2-inch, 55-ounce brown trout.
More said he was planning to keep the big catch and frying it up for Saturday dinner.
Jones said he assisted state Department of Environmental Conservation officials in stocking the pond. He said it is one of many waterways throughout the Cortland County that received a total of 18,000 fish this spring. The stocked fish were mostly rainbow and brown trout, he said.