One more. It’s a simple phrase. In terms of understanding its significance in regard to athletics, it’s a phrase reserved for and understood mostly by the very best. And the most passionate. Somehow, they all seem to get it. Partly because their normal is so different.
One more roll.
One more run on the boom.
For four time Log rolling World Champion Shana Verstegen, the phrase flows out as if it is normal. Memorial Day weekend normalcy tends to revolve mostly around parades and grill outs. Not workouts.
On this Memorial Day weekend, Verstegen, who’s been rolling professionally for nearly two decades, was doing what she often does this time of year. Painting and preparing logs for the summer at Lake Wingra, near her home in Madison, WI. Verstegen also spent part of the day training for the upcoming Pro Logrolling season, which starts Saturday in Orland Park, Ill. As the sun began its descent on what started as a beautiful Saturday in Madison, dark clouds started to move in. And that’s when a variation of the phrase made its way into the early evening.
“Just one boom run”
And off she went. Running through the first drops of an increasingly powerful storm. The other rollers working out with Verstegen were headed the other direction. Probably looking for an umbrella. The several dozen other people enjoying Memorial Day weekend at Lake Wingra were long gone too. As the parking lot quickly emptied, the area near the water had only one person remaining.
This upcoming Saturday Verstegen will join 18 other professional Log Rollers in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park, as the 2016 pro Logrolling circuit begins its season. It’s the first of six pro tournaments of the summer, culminating with the Lumberjack World Championships. On July 30 in Hayward, WI, the 36-year old Verstegen will look to make history and become the oldest women’s World Champion in the history of the sport. It would be her fifth world title. It would also make for the ultimate bounce back story. Verstegen missed part of last year, and was not her usual self when she did compete, following the birth of her son Greyson. “Last year I was rolling really just for fun,” says Verstegen. “I did it to feel sane because I had just had the baby and I felt like I was cooped up in the house. It felt really good to just get on a log and compete and just be there. I even won a few matches which felt really good, even though my body was not 100 percent.”
As for coming back to full strength in 2016, Verstegen estimates she’s at about 80 percent of where she was at her peek a few years ago. “This year I’ve had the off season to train and I’ve been training pretty hard,” says Verstegen. This year the big difference is I’ve got my body back. When you have a baby, your core strength is destroyed. I didn’t feel like I had my core strength for a good 6 months. We always talk about how important the core is when you log roll, but until you’ve had your abdominals ripped apart by a child, you don’t realize how important it is to have that core strength and stability. Now things are starting to go back to where my body was before I was pregnant.” Verstegen, who rolls about four times a week, and mixes in regular lifting, cycling, and running sessions into her workouts, is realistic about the challenges of rolling at this stage of her life. She’s also convinced she can be close to what she once was. “I do feel older. My body is a new body that will never be the same,” says Verstegen. “But I also feel like I have the athletic potential to be what I was when I was 25 or 26 too. And mentally there are advantages now. Before every log rolling competition in my teens and 20’s I would be so nervous that I could hardly eat. I’d get so nervous when I got on the log I didn’t remember how to log roll and I’d fall in right away. I remember crying before tournaments in my hotel room because I was so scared. It’s nice to get rid of those nerves. It’s still healthy to have some nerves and be a little bit excited. But to be able to control those and keep your mind right is very beneficial. The older you are, the more experienced you are. Plus you’re able to put more of it into perspective. I know when I was 25, 26, 27, after a loss, I’d be really bummed. Now I realize there’s a lot more to life.”
As Verstegen gears up to compete in Chicago this week, she’s fully aware that several women on the pro circuit, mostly in their late teens and early 20’s, are gunning for the same success she is this summer. Some, such as Ellie Davenport, Gretchen Green, and Meredith Ingbretson, have now passed Verstegen in the world rankings. “It’s going to be hard as heck,” says Verstegen. I now have a lower ranking so I’m going to have to work my way from the back and I’ve got to compete with these younger girls. I’ll have my work cut out for me for sure, but I plan on training every day.”
When the question comes up in regard to winning a fifth world title this year, Verstegen’s normally friendly, chatty tone quickly becomes short. And filled with conviction. “I want to win the World Championships.”
On the question of whether she still can compete at that level - “Yes.”
It’s unmistakable. The same woman who understandably had to concede that 2015 would not be as competitive, is clearly transitioning again. Thinking, training, and working to try and once again be the best. Beginning this Saturday in Orland Park, Ill, Verstegen is set to give iteverything she has. On July 30 (championship Saturday), she’ll almost certainly be a sentimental favorite among the several thousand spectators at the Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward. As for adding to her four World titles, many in the crowd will likely have the same thought in mind.
. . . .
HEADED TO THE WINDY CITY
Pro logrollers will get a different look this year, as will residents in the Chicago area. The pro Logrolling circuit will start its season with the U.S. Logrolling Open at Centennial Park, located in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park this Saturday. The Open will take place on Lake Sedgewick and include 19 of the top pro rollers in the world, including eight-time world champion Darren Hudson for the men, and four time World Champ Shana Verstegen on the women’s side. The event will also be broadcast on CSN, the sports home of the Chicago Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, among others. Tournament Director Katie Rick says the final stages are being completed for Saturday, and she’s happy with the direction of the tournament. “I’m very excited about the event as it gets closer,” says Rick. “We have a great field of competitors committed, which is very important, and we’re getting some great media coverage this week in the Chicago area. We have a media day planned for Friday and several top media organizations are expected to be there, including WGN in Chicago.”
Rick began laying down the foundation for the tournament over a year ago, meeting with officials from the Chicago Southland area, as well as potential sponsors. “I was optimistic that it would come to be and that we would be able to expand competition to a new state,” says Rick. “We looked at a couple sites before we found one that worked from a location stand point. Centennial Park has a great natural Lake to host a tournament. Additionally, it’s a very active park with an aquatic center, baseball and soccer fields, and walking paths. It’s an ideal spot to get exposure for logrolling.” As for the long term prospects of the U.S Logrolling Open, Rick is convinced that the Chicago area may have long term potential as the home of the Open. “We are planning to make this an annual event and I look forward to continuing to build relationships in Chicago Southland.”
US Log Rolling Open Online Brackets
. . . .
WHO TO WATCH IN 2016 -- Men’s division
1. J.R. Salzman - At age 37, Salzman is perhaps rolling as well as he ever has. The Hayward native enters 2016 with a combined (Lumberjack/USLRA) 11 World Championships, the most of alltime. Salzman won all four tournaments he entered last year, including another world title. The most likely person to slow him down in 2016 could end up being himself. Salzman has not officially confirmed he’ll compete a full schedule or roll at all in 2016. If he decides to call it quits, Salzman will retire as one of the best professional log roller ever. If he does compete, expect Salzman to continue to defy age with his exceptional conditioning and strong work ethic, and have a big 2016 summer.
2. Jamie Fischer - The 34 year old Fischer has announced he’s coming out of retirement after leaving competitive log rolling five years ago. Fischer, who won three world titles in the early to mid 2000’s, is looking to turn back the clock this summer. The Stillwater, MN resident has undergone a rigorous workout regime over the past six months, losing more than 30 pounds. By all accounts, Fischer is rolling at a very high level and could be among Salzman’s top competitors in 2016. Fischer is also returning to the boom run this summer. The seven time boom champ should be among the top performers in that event.
3. Darren Hudson - Since 2006, Hudson has won a remarkable 17 pro tournaments. His eight combined World titles rank fifth all time, and at age 39, Hudson might have at least one more big year left. The Barrington, Nova Scotia native is among the favorites to win in Chicago this week and should be a major threat on the men’s side throughout the summer.
4. Dan McDonough - The lingering question connected to McDonough is whether or not he’ll roll this summer. The legendary McDonough, who’s won nine World titles, is on a short list of the best log rollers of all time. At 55 years old, McDonough is strongly considering a comeback after not rolling professionally since 2006. It’s unlikely that McDonough, 19 years removed from his last world title, can beat Salzman, Fischer, or Hudson. However, even at 55, the Michigan native is in excellent condition and probably has enough raw power to hang in with all three, and maybe still win against the bottom two thirds of the men’s division.
5. Brian Duffy – The five time World champion continues to roll well in the twilight of his career. Duffy has not won a world title since the 1990’s but has continued to compete well against the top rollers on the men’s circuit. Duffy came in second at last year’s world championships, third at Namekagon, and finished tied for sixth at the Three Rivers Roleo.
6. Garrick Birdsong – Birdsong, who turns 19 this month, is among the top young rollers in the men’s division. Birdsong broke through with his first career win at the La Crosse Open last year, and earned runner up finishes in Madison and Namekagon. Finished fourth at LWC.
7. Carl Rick – Rick is coming off a solid 2015 season in which he had two runner up finishes (LaCrosse Open, Three Rivers Roleo) and should be a strong contender in 2016. Rick has four tournament wins in his career.
8. Derek Knutson – Could be the surprise of the men’s division in 2016. The 30-year old Knutson, who finished fourth at World Championships two years ago, is coming off a sub-par 2015. Knutson has been training this spring with nine time champion Dan McDonough, and it’s a good bet he’ll be closer to his 2014 form than last year’s disappointing season.
9. Dominik Serpico - Nailed down a third place finish at World Championships last year and should be among the top rollers on the men’s circuit this year. The third year pro out of Hudson, WI has two top 3 finishes as a pro and could be in store for a breakout 2016 season.
10. Brian Stearns - Fourth year pro is developing into a well-rounded timber sport athlete – expected to compete in at least three events at LWC (Log rolling, Boom run, Climbing) in 2016. Stearns was a semi-finalist in Log Rolling at 2015 World championships & came in fifth at the Three Rivers Roleo.
OTHERS TO WATCH:
Spencer Wilkinson – Worlds #1 ranked boom runner. Four top three log rolling finishes in his career.
Tyler Berard – After a year off, expected to return in ’16. Two runner ups, seven third place finishes in his career.
Torrin Hallett – coming off a solid 2015 season, in which he earned a third place finish in Madison.
Cassidy Scheer – uses his large frame well and can be tough first few seconds into a fall. Finished fifth at 2015 World Championships.
Marcel Scott – cracked Top 7 in Log Rolling past two years at LWC. 2014 Boom running World Champion.
Caleb Graves – tied for ninth in Log Rolling at 2015 LWC. Excellent athlete - could be a strong candidate to win a boom running world title in ’16.
Efer Lopez – Strong fourth place at Namekagon last year, tied for ninth at LWC.
Charlie Fenton – Among the most talented Boom runners in the world. Won ’15 LWC boom title, the third of his career.
. . . .
WHO TO WATCH -- WOMEN’S DIVISION
1. Ellie Davenport – The Worlds #1 ranked women’s Log Roller broke through with a big 2015 summer. The 18-year old Davenport won three tournaments (La Crosse Open, Midwest Championships, Namekagon) and came in second at both the Three Rivers Roleo and World Championships. Davenport has tremendous speed and quickness and should be among the favorites at every tournament she competes in this season.
2. Meredith Ingbretson – The 21 year old Hayward native is perhaps the best all around athlete on the women’s circuit. Ingbretson, who plays college hockey at UW-Stevens Point, pulled off an impressive weekend at last year’s World Championships, winning her first Log Rolling world title and also locking up her third Boom run title. Ingbretson, Davenport, and Shana Verstegen are all competing at the U.S. Log Rolling Open near Chicago this Saturday, which should make for an exciting start to the season on the women’s side.
3. Gretchen Green – The 20-year old Green has already won five tournaments in her young career, including a World Championship in 2013. The Madison native took home a first place title at the Three Rivers Roleo last year. A threat to win every week on the women’s circuit in 2016.
4. Abby Hoeschler – The Minneapolis native has put together an impressive resume during her decade plus as a pro. Hoeschler enters 2016 with four career victories and in 24 tournaments, has had a top three finish. Despite not winning last year, Hoeschler was among the most consistent rollers on the women’s side, with runner ups in La Crosse and Namekagon, a third place in Madison, and a fourth place finish at World Championships. 2016 could be a breakout year for Hoeschler. Also among the top boom runners on the women’s side.
5. Shana Verstegen – The 36-year old Verstegen is among the best women’s rollers of all time -Verstegan has won a remarkable 23 tournaments in her career, including four World Championships. After struggling in 2015 and missing part of the season following the birth of her son, Verstegen has been training hard this spring and should be close to her old self. Likely to be among the top rollers on the women’s circuit this summer.
6. Emily Christopherson – Always among the most consistent rollers on the women’s side, the 29-yearold Christopherson has four victories and nine runner-ups in her career. Has finished in third place each of the last three years at World Championships.
7. Lizzie Horvitz – After a nearly two year break, during which time her son Oliver was born, Horvitz is set to compete once again in 2016. The Minneapolis native is among the most accomplished Logrollers in the women’s field, with three World Championships overall, and seven tournament wins over the past decade. Horvitz’s last tournament action was in Hayward, WI in July of 2014, where she took home her third world title. Look for her to be back in the mix for another title this summer.
8. Katie Rick - Tied for fifth at World Championships last year, following a semi finals appearance the previous year. The 29 year old Rick has 11 top three finishes in her career and should be among the top contenders on the women’s side in 2016.
9. Maggie Penning – Second year pro could be on the verge of a breakout summer. As a rookie last year, Penning finished tied for 5th at World Championships. Also cracked top 5 at both The Three Rivers Roleo and Namekagon.
10. Claudia Duffy – Daughter of five-time men’s champion Brian Duffy, Claudia had a solid season in 2015. Came in tied for seventh at World Championships after nearly beating eventual champion Meredith Ingbretson in the first round.
Others to watch:
Jenny Atkinson – Four-time world champ returning from foot injury. 2016 marks her 25th year as a professional roller.
Taylor Biser - 2011 World champion had three top 5 finishes (La Crosse Open, MidwestChampionships, Three Rivers Roleo) in 2015.
Sam Hadley – Cracked top 7 at Log Rolling World Championships and Namekagon in 2015.
Olivia Judd – Three top 10 finishes in 2016 including a tie for 5th in Madison.
Leah Burns - Solid 2015 season, including top 10 finishes at both World Championships and The Three Rivers Roleo.
Mandy Sobiech – Multiple World Champion boom runner considering a comeback in 2016. Among top log rollers in early 2000’s & on a short list of best boom runners ever.
2016 Professional Schedule (USLRA sanctioned tournaments)
June 11 U.S. Logrolling Open -- Orland Park, Ill
June 18 La Crosse Open -- La Crosse, WI
June 25-26 Midwest Championships -- Madison, WI
July 9 Three Rivers Roleo -- Onalaska, WI
July 17 Namekagon River Roll Off -- Hayward, WI
July 28-30 Lumberjack World Championships -- Hayward, WI