COLUMBUS, Ga. In diving and gymnastics, the landing is everything. Apparently the same can be said of speed climbing.
In the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series tree climb finals, Brian Bartow stayed vertical and his feet tagged the landing mat 22 hundredths of a second before Derek Knutson to win with a time of 11.43 seconds.
"If I had been standing up when I hit the pad, I think it would have been closer," Knutson said.
The Hayward, Wis., resident over rotated during the last 20 feet of his descent and fell flat on his back into the foam landing pads for a 11.65-second climb and fall.
"Technically, you're supposed to land on your feet," the winning Bartow said. "Your feet should always be at the bottom when you land."
While Bartow's statement appears obvious, landing upright is not always as easy as it sounds.
Falling at speeds of up to 45-50 mph, competitors are required to spur into the wooden poles every 20-feet for safety reasons. But catching the wood with the foot spurs throws feet, legs and bodies in disarray and gravity itself plays a strong role in spinning a contestant.
In his final competition, Bartow, originally from Oregon, said he focused solely on his own climb rather than keeping tabs on his competitor as the two raced up the 60-foot spar.
"If I'm racing someone slower than me, I'll usually look over," he said. "But I didn't look today."
With mutual respect and admiration for each other, both Bartow and Knutson were pleased with their personal performances in the finals. Knutson felt he had given Bartow a tough contest.
"That's about all that I got," Knutson said. "Brian's just a heck of a climber."
"I'm happy I won because overall it was a pretty good climb," Bartow said. "Now it's time to start training for the Hayward."
The Lumberjack World Championships Bartow refers to as "the Hayward" begin in late July in Wisconsin.
In the other competition on the day, Cassidy Scheer finished in 12.93 seconds to best Stirling Hart and win third place in the bracketed, head-to-head tournament.