“It was really just a blur, I think I just ran down to my mom before I did anything else. It’s an unreal feeling. You work so hard and it felt so good to win.”
For 20-year old Hayward, WI native Meredith Ingbretson, winning the 2015 Log Rolling World Championships on the last Saturday of July marked the culmination of several things. The victory was perhaps, the final hurdle of her comeback from a torn ACL three years ago. It also solidified her as one Log Rolling’s top female rollers. But unbeknownst to most in the crowd that July evening, the win etched Ingbretson into the Timber Sports history book forever. When runner-up Ellie Davenport hit the water for the third and final time, Ingbretson joined Shana Verstegen, Jenny Atkinson, and Tina (Salzman) Bosworth as the only female athletes to ever to win a Log Rolling and Boom Running Lumberjack World Championship in the same year.
Ingbretson, whose Boom title came roughly an hour before her Log Rolling Championship, battled through one of the toughest brackets in recent history to capture her first Log Rolling title. Because she did not qualify for a bye, Ingbretson had to win five matches instead of four to finish the job. Among her opponents were a group of household names that included the world’s current top ranked roller Shana Verstegen and soon to be top ranked roller Ellie Davenport, who had won three of four tournaments leading into World Championships. Ingbretson also knocked out perennial top contenders Abby Hoeschler, Claudia Duffy, and Olivia Judd.
“In the beginning I had to roll Claudia (a close 3-2 match) and that was tough,” says Ingbretson. “It’s always tough to roll someone you train with and that was the closest match of the weekend. After winning that I had to roll Shana, and I was nervous about that. It’s Shana and it was intimidating. But if you stay focused you can beat anybody.” After defeating the four-time World Champion Verstegen, 3-0, followed by a three fall win over Olivia Judd, Ingbretson’s path did not get any easier. She was matched up next in the semi-finals against the world’s number six ranked roller, Hoeschler. In an exciting back and forth match, Ingbretson went on to beat Hoeschler in four falls. “I’d never beaten Abby before,” says Ingbretson. “To beat her 3-1 was amazing.” The win over Hoeschler set the stage for a finals match that would pit two of the youngest rollers on the pro circuit, the 20-year old Ingbretson against the 17-year old Davenport.
It was a finals match for Ingbretson in which a strong mental focus would turn out to be a major difference maker. “I’d rolled Ellie once before,” says Ingbretson. “Getting into the right mindset was huge. I didn’t want to be nervous. Being excited instead of nervous (was key).” Ingbretson’s coaching corner included ten-time World Champion J.R. Salzman, who started coaching her when she was in grade school, and five-time Champ Brian Duffy, who along with Salzman, trains with Ingbretson. “They’re just so experienced, telling you what to do,” says Ingbretson. She adds that most of the real work and preparation happens leading up to the tournament and it’s important to focus on the log come tournament time, rather than having a coach yelling and screaming. “After I fell in (against Ellie) and it was tied 1-1 they just let me fix it,” says Ingbretson. Some coaches yell and get too anxious, which makes you anxious.” She adds that both Salzman and Duffy, who understand what it’s like to go through the process, helped her out considerably in terms of keeping her emotions in check and staying patient against Davenport. “I knew I had to wait until the four (log), and J.R. and Brian were talking to me about waiting a little longer, to wait for my opportunities. I get a little jumpy, when I see them (opponent) start to fall a little it’s easy to get to jumpy. But they kept me relaxed and focused.”
“I think it was her mental toughness (that kept her in it),” says Duffy. “She was focused and she was dialed in. That’s very important. Either you are going to fight to stay on and make the recovery or kind of give up and plop in. It’s easy when you’re tired to just give in rather than dig deep and that’s where the mental toughness comes in, to make the recovery and give the extra effort to win the fall.”
After being tied at one fall apiece, Ingbretson went on to win the final two falls against Davenport, and took home her first Log Rolling World Championship at the age of 20. She joined Taylor (Duffy) Biser and Tina (Salzman) Bosworth as the only Hayward natives to win a women’s World title in front of the home crowd in the past 20 years.
“I think she actually ran faster than I’ve seen anybody run on land.”
It came across as a slight exaggeration, but wasn’t far off. That comment was among the many from those in the crowd at the Lumberjack Bowl last month, and not surprisingly, it was a description of Meredith Ingbretson’s final Boom run at this year’s World Championships. Ingbretson’s time of 14.07 was not the fastest recorded women’s time ever, but it may have been the most impressive.
When three time Boom champion Abby Hoeschler set the World record of 13.98 in 2011, all runners were allowed to get a forward start as long as they did not cross the start line before the signal came to do so. Since 2011, The USLRA has prohibited forward momentum and now forces all runners to start from a standing position. Since the rule change, virtually all of the top times on the both the men’s and women’s side have been roughly a full second behind the records that were set when runners were permitted to get forward momentum. Until last month.
When Ingbretson took off on her final Boom run, she exploded out of the gate and ran a nearly perfect run. When she clocked in at 14.07, it marked perhaps the most impressive run ever for a women’s Boom runner at the Lumberjack World Championships. Her time was more than a half second ahead of the rest of the women’s field, and only four men finished faster. Most impressive, Ingbretson’s run was just nine one-hundredths of a second off the World record, which was set when all runners had the advantage of the forward momentum start. Ingbretson’s 2015 time was the fastest women’s time ever recorded under the current rules.
Several Professional boom runners were in awe over Ingbretson’s accomplishment, including two time men’s boom champion Marcel Scott, who’s convinced it may have been one of the best runs ever. “It was pretty spectacular,” says Scott. I know Meredith is pretty good with her mental game, when it comes to crunch time she definitely knows what she has to do and she’s very good as a mental competitor. I didn’t really expect that good of a time (under the current rules) but who would have. It’s pretty awesome what she was able to do.” Scott stresses that with the old loop hole of getting a head start gone, it’s hard to believe Ingbretson came as close as she did to breaking the world record. “That in itself is pretty amazing,” says Scott. For Meredith to come that close to a record that probably in most people’s mind would never be beaten, it’s just crazy to think that she came that close. She was just flying across those logs.”
At the age of 20, Ingbretson already sounds like a savvy veteran when discussing the mental side of running the Boom. “With Boom running, it’s all about muscle memory,” she says. “With Log rolling you have to think about the other person. With Boom running, you just have to think about and focus on yourself.” It’s the not the first time she’s proven she can perform under pressure. Ingbretson, who currently plays college hockey at UW-Stevens Point, helped lead Hayward High School to a Hockey State Championship in 2013, with a hat trick in the final game, while playing with a torn ACL. Since returning from the injury, she’s won two of her three Boom titles as well as this year’s Log Rolling World Championship, and continues to skate as a Center/Forward for UW-Stevens Point.
After locking down the 2015 Boom Running title, Ingbretson now has a total of three boom titles (’12, ’14, ’15), and likely has at least 10 plus years of prime running left. She’s already nailed down her first Log Rolling title and her combination of speed and strength are a sure sign that there may be more in her future. There have been just a handful of women who have dominated the winners circle in both Log Rolling and the Boom Run. Shana Verstegen, Jenny Atkinson and Tina (Salzman) Bosworth come to mind as perhaps the best Log rolling/Boom combo’s to ever compete on the women’s side. Following her performance this year, Ingbretson may be ready to join their company soon, if she hasn’t already.