WATERVILLE — Colby College senior Alex Martel clutched the saw handle and positioned himself by the 10-inch diameter white pine log, as sophomore Ella Hiebert did the same on the saw’s other end.

Fellow Colby Woodsmen team members sat on the long log, which also was chained down, to help secure it. A few feet away, Dartmouth College students took the same stance, positioned to compete.

Alex Martel, a Colby College senior, was part of the Mud Meet ’23 woodsmen competition Saturday in Waterville. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

“Colby, are you ready?” coach Dave Smith called out.

“Yes,” the competitors shouted.

Martel, 21, and Hiebert, 19, mustered their strength to saw the log, back and forth, back and forth, as the crowd cheered, until a several-inches thick piece of the white pine fell to the ground. They had won the first of two rounds.

The pair were among 25 Colby students to compete Saturday against 47 others from the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire who had come to Waterville for Mud Meet ’23. Typically, it is muddy this time of year and thus the event got its name. But on Saturday the ground in the woods off Washington Street where the event was held was fairly dry.


The students, and alumni of the program also, competed in all sorts of events, including cross-cut saw, bow saw, pulp toss, chainsaw disc stack, axe throw, pole climb, and dry land log birling.

“Nice roll, nice roll,” Smith, the coach, called out to students as they took part in the pulp toss event. They were throwing 4-foot fir and spruce logs 17 feet and the logs had to land within stakes to be counted.

“Most of the events are based on jobs done in the woods long ago,” Smith said.

Competitors used peaveys on either end of a 14-foot log to hook, roll, lift and position it along two rails and up onto a deck in the log decking event. Smith explained that the “peavey” tool was named after Joseph Peavey who was a blacksmith near Old Town and invented the pole. Peavey Manufacturing Co. still exists in Eddington, he said.

Colby College’s Zach McClimon competes in the log toss event Saturday during the Mud Meet ’23 woodsmen competition in Waterville. Teams from the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire also competed. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Martel, the senior competitor, said one of the things he loves about being on the Colby Woodsmen team is learning such history and all about how people worked in the timber industry. An environmental policy major minoring in economics and geology, he said he will continue to work in New York City in real estate private equity after he graduates this year.

Being on the Woodsmen team all four years has been “awesome” and teammates develop strong bonds, according to Martel. Alumni also come back to compete in an alumni event, he said. Developing strength and being physically fit is important to being a part of the team, which practices from 4-6 p.m. daily.


“I really enjoy sports so it is an athletic challenge as well,” said Martel, of North Andover, Massachusetts. “We do a lot of traveling. This year we’ve done New Brunswick, we’ve done Montreal, Connecticut, University of New Hampshire. That’s been super, super fun.”

Martel sang the praises of Smith, who has coached the team for 34 years.

Sophomore Rebecca Wanger competes Saturday for host Colby College during Mud Meet ’23 woodsmen competition in Waterville. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

“His knowledge of everything we do here is amazing,” Martel said. “He is so knowledgeable. He’s a phenomenal coach and is really the glue that makes everything work.”

Dozens of competitors, friends, alumni and families gathered Saturday for the daylong event. The sun was warm and the air cool, a perfect combination for competition. Everywhere was the scent of spruce, pine and fir.

Colby sophomore Rebecca Wanger, 19 and an environmental science major from Chicago, said she has been in the club both years and loves it. Coming from a city, she wanted to learn about rural life and the club fit the bill, she said.

“It’s very fun, a very warm inviting team, good energy,” Wanger said. “I had never used a chainsaw before, but I learned on the team. I had never used an axe before.”

She said she is interested in forest ecology and research and with her degree, she could work for places such as the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service or other related entities.


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