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8/29/2010

SALEM, Ore. -- Sixty feet requires perfection. At least, that's what the two climbers who advanced today in the speed climb semifinals at the 2010 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series National Championship think as they look ahead to what looks like a dead-heat final in the 25th anniversary of the world's biggest lumberjack event.

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Brian Bartow from Lake Oswego, Ore., defeated Guy German, and Stirling Hart from Mission, British Columbia overcame an early slip to defeat Cassidy Scheer to advance to a head-to-head, winner-take-all final on the 60-foot trees at the Oregon State Fair in Salem, Ore.

"Everything has to go perfectly for you to win on a 60-foot tree," said Hart, whose left foot slipped shortly after the start in his semifinal, forcing him to make up time on the fast-starting Scheer. "It's a sprint. This is the shortest tree we'll race on, so it's our 100-meter dash."

Scheer got off to a quick lead on the climb against Hart, whose left foot slipped low on the tree, forcing him to push to make up as much time as possible on the ascent, and then to go all out on the descent. Hart finished in 11.94, his fastest climb of the week, to Scheer's 12.23.

"Going up, I had to compensate for the slip and push extra hard for the bell, and then lay it all out coming down the tree," Hart said.

"I did the minimum amount of hits coming down and hit the pad just barely before him. The West Coast guys pride ourselves on really fast, controlled descents where, if we mess up, we can come down really fast and under control. My experience coming down the tree was the reason I was able to beat him."

Hart won't have that advantage against Bartow, who has the fastest time of the week with an 11.66 in a qualifying climb, and has consistently been one of the cleanest climbers in the competition.

Bartow was error-free against German, finishing in 12.23 to German's 13.25

"I'm just trying to stay nice and smooth, and I knew that if I had a clean climb, my chances were pretty good," Bartow said.

"The finals, it'll be all out. It'll take a really good climb to win. You want to get a quick start, hit each step quick, hit the top stretched out and fly past the orange lines on the way down. It's only a 60-foot race, so it's a total speed race. It's anybody's game."

Gear tweaks ahead for Hart

Hart has had repeated problems slipping low on the tree throughout the competition, but believes that he's found a minor, fixable issue with his gaffs.

"The way our gaffs are filed, they have a ledge in a specific place, so when you're pushing off, you have the maximum amount of surface area on the tree," Hart said.

"The gaff was angled a little bit too much and was causing it to slice out of the tree. I'm going to switch to a different gaff, angle it a little different, because I won't be able to slip and beat Brian tomorrow."

Bartow and Hart will compete Sunday for the speed climb title at the 2010 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series National Championship.