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The choker setting competition teaches participants to set chains that can lift logs — a skill real loggers use.

The cross-cut competition teaches pairs of competitors how to saw through a log with only hand saw, a skill wildland firefighters and trail building crews need.

And the arbor climbing competition teaches students how to climb trees as urban foresters do.

The competitions at the Philomath High School Forestry Career & Skills Day teach valuable career skills to students, said Simon Babcock, PHS’ forestry teacher. But beyond skills that apply specifically to those careers, he said, the competition also teaches them professional skills such as communication, teamwork and work ethic.

The competition Saturday drew approximately 120 students from seven schools across Oregon, said Babcock. The annual competition has been held at PHS since the 1980s, he added.

“(Students) get to test their skills against kids from around the state and get a sense of ownership and pride,” he said.

Babcock said logging and forestry professionals do the real work of running the event and are judges for the competitions, so students also get a chance to network with people who could eventually be interested in employing them.

“It’s almost like an informal interview,” he said. “(Employers) get a chance to see someone’s work ethic and teamwork.”

He added that some of the competitions are physical challenges, some are mental challenges and some are composure challenges that test how participants can handle everything going wrong.

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Matt Bevandich, a PHS sophomore who competed Saturday, said forestry classes are fun.

“You get graded on doing the stuff I like doing,” he said.

Bevandich said his favorite competition is pole climbing, in which participants are timed to see how quickly they can climb 30 feet up a log.

He said during those competitions he worries more about how fast he can go than the heights he reaches.

“You slip one time and you’re down a second or two and that really sets you back,” he said.

Cheyanne Phillips, a PHS junior who competed Saturday, said she thinks more of her peers should get involved with forestry.

“If you’re not an in-class type of person you get to do a lot of activities. You learn a lot about the industries and where all this came from,” she said.

Phillips said cable splicing and axe throwing are her favorite activities in the competitions.

“(Throwing an axe) is a skill that requires a lot of accuracy that people don’t think you need,” she said.

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Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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