Freshman Devon Zapatka uses a bow saw to cut through a log as coach Drew Zielinski looks on Thursday in Woodbury. Steve Bigham Republican-American
WOODBURY — The newly formed Nonnewaug FFA Timber Team has been preparing for competition this spring, throwing axes, sawing wood and fine tuning its logrolling skills on its practice facility set up behind the school.
The 12-member team, under the direction of ag-science teacher and coach, Drew Zielinski, is now one of only three high school timber teams in the state. The other two are Wamogo and Woodland regional high schools, and the Woodbury team will be seeing plenty of them in the coming months.
The team was outside Thursday afternoon and appeared focused in its preparation for what are known as “The Ax Games,” slated for May 21 at Wamogo High in Beacon Falls.
That event will be followed by various competitions at the Goshen, Bethlehem and Harwinton fairs.
“It’s super cool and so much fun,” said junior Kennis McCarthy moments after joining fellow junior Shelby Rushin in cutting through a massive log using a cross saw.
“We’re all learning together and getting ready for our first competition. It’s like a family,” McCarthy said.
Nonnewaug agriscience department director Ed Belinsky said the team was formed after some students in past years watched Wamogo and Woodland compete at various fairs.
“They wanted to know how Nonnewaug could got involved, so when Drew stepped forward, the wheels were set in motion,” Belinsky said.
The Region 14 Board of Education approved the idea for the team a year ago, but plans to start the team were put on hold for a year due to COVID-19.
Zielinski said he competed in timber events while a college student at SUNY-Cobbleskill and still does from time to time. He said the key to successful axe throwing and log cutting is technique. From there, he said, the team will work to improve its accuracy lower its times.
Belinsky said students have lost a lot of time due to the pandemic and the timber team is just another way to create opportunities for kids.
Other coaches are Eric Piazza and Shannon Strong.