KETCHIKAN — Neck and neck throughout the entire 2012 Alaska Ironjack Championships Wednesday evening in Ketchikan, the battle for first between Jake Justus and Derek Knutson came down to the final event — the boom run.
Or, as it is more aptly called, “The Boom of Doom.”
A race track four logs long floating in a pool of water, competitors had to traverse the course to one end and back. One wrong move, as nine of the 10 lumberjackers found out, and your body hurtles toward water and solid wood.
Justus was the only one to successfully steer clear of the waist-deep water, finishing in 16.23 seconds. However, Knutson did not let his one fall impede him much, finishing in 13.41 to take third place in the boom and first overall.
“It was really fun,” said Knutson, who won last year’s event as well. “All the guys did really well today. It was close.”
Knutson finished first with 532.94 points; Justus came in second with 527.72, and Tyler Rothe — who won the boom run for the second straight year with a time of 11.17 — finished third with 500.05.
“It was anybody’s game this year,” Rothe said. “I knew that if I was going to win anything, it was going to be the boom run. I’m not too big, so I’ve got to make up for it with speed.”
The lumberjackers put on a show for the packed arena, competing in six events and keeping the crowd entertained through it all.
Whether it was Justus tip-toeing across the logs during the boom runs, Rothe free-falling from 55 feet in the speed climb or hometown favorite Andy Colle swinging his way to victory in the standing block chop, cheers constantly rang out.
“You can’t get a better crowd than here in Ketchikan,” Knutson said. “It gets you pumped.”
Knutson, a Hayward, Wis., native, did not get off to a strong start, finishing tied for sixth in the ax throw with only one bull’s-eye. Colle, Justus and 18-year-old Michael Hattershide each threw perfect scores of 15 — all three throws hitting dead center.
The standing block chop, which simulates the chopping down of a tree, brought the crowd to its feet as Colle, who lives in Ketchikan, chopped his way to first in 20.74 seconds. Not far behind Colle was Knutson, who started to gain ground by halving his piece in 17 strokes, finishing second in 20.87. Justus rounded out the top three in 21.24.
Already with two top-three finishes under his belt, Justus took his first top finish in the obstacle pole race. The 31-year-old completed the course in 20.34 seconds, almost four seconds faster than his nearest competitor. Hattershide finished second in 24.31, edging out Colden, N.Y.-native Mark Bouquin, who came in third in 24.64.
But Justus wasn’t done there.
With a time of 14.69 seconds, Justus followed up his first-place finish in the standing block chop with the fastest time in the single buck event. In the single buck, the sawyers used a crosscut saw more than 6 feet in height to cut through a single log. Bouquin used his 6-foot, 4-inch frame to rip through the timber and finish second in 15.34. Knutson, who won the single buck last year in 10.11, settled for third in 15.92.
Heading into the fifth event without a first-place finish, Knutson knew he needed to claim the top spot in the speed climb. Luckily for him, Knutson just so happens to be second-best in the world in both the 60- and 90-foot speed climbs. Knutson scurried up and down the 55-foot beam in impressive fashion, finishing first with a time of 12.33 seconds.
“The speed climb is something that, obviously, I place pretty well in over the years,” Knutson said. “I needed to win it this time, and I did it.”
Going up was the hard part, as many of the climbers stumbled to find their footing in an attempt to ascend quickly.
Going down was the fun part, with many competitors free-falling back to the crash pad at an alarming rate.
Heavy rains last year forced the climbers to only go up to the 40-foot mark. With clearer skies this time around, spectators got the full experience.
“Fantastic weather — we got to climb all the way to the top of the tree,” said Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show General Manager Shauna Lee. “The crowd always loves to see them bailing out from the top. That was great.”
Hattershide finished second in 14.77, despite incurring a three-second penalty for starting his descent before properly reaching the top marker. Rothe finished third in 14.79.
But it all came down to “The Boom of Doom,” to decide this year’s winner.
Justus avoided a fall, but Knutson won it all.
“It was fantastic, as always,” Lee said. “A very, very close competition and it came right down to the end.”
Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.ketchikandailynews.com