A cutting edge

Lumberjill Shephard doesn’t have to go far to show her stuff

Times Observer photos by Cody Elms Collin Shephard, right, is being cheered on by Julie Miller during the one person crosscut portion of the endurance competition.

The Johnny Appleseed Festival has been a growing event in Sheffield for well over a decade. The Lumberjack and Lumberjill competitions have brought in timbersport competitors from around the globe.

There’s been one quiet competitor from right here in Warren County.

Collin Shephard, a central N.Y. native, moved here in 2010 to work for the U.S. Forest Service. She is currently the Acting Public Affairs Officer as well as Forest Ecologist. She’s participated in almost every Johnny Appleseed Festival Lumberjill competition since.

But her story doesn’t start there.

Shephard graduated in 2001 from Sauquoit Valley High School, and eventually found herself at the State University of New York (SUNY), majoring in Environmental Science and Forestry, graduating in 2005. At SUNY, Shephard was first introduced to the world of competitive timber sports.

Times Observer photos by Cody Elms Collin Shephard in full swing for the underhand chop.

“They (SUNY) had a team when I was a junior,” said Shephard. “So, I joined the club. I have competed more or less ever since. Two years in college, took two years off for work and travel and stuff and got back into it. This is

the end of my 12th year professionally.”

Through those 12 years, she has primarily stayed in the northeast, but the sport has taken her to Canada, New Mexico, and as far as Australia when she was a part of the U.S national team.

“The first year I was on the team was 2009,” Shephard said. “Then I’ve gone a few years since then, with the most recent being 2016. So, it hasn’t been every year, but just kind of hit or miss, depending on who’s interested in going.”

For Shephard, the trip to Sheffield from Warren is a short one and will always be worth it. She enjoys the expanding events at both the Johnny Appleseed Festival and further away competitions.

“Just having more women’s events, if there’s more for me to do when I get down there, I don’t want to travel and just do one thing,” Shephard said. “If there’s the same number or a good number of events for women, then it’s worth your time. You’re choosing to travel, choosing to spend your limited time and recourses, and you’re taking that away from other things, so you want to get there and do as much as you can.”

Times Observer photos by Cody Elms Timbersports takes its toll, as Shephard rests for a brief moment following the endurance competition.

The underhand chop, standing block, one-person crosscut, two-person crosscut, ax throw, stock saw, and barrel split, along with endurance competitions, are all events that Shepard has under her belt.

“I try them all, for better or for worse,” said Shephard.”

Shepard and good friend Julie Miller (Central N.Y.), who was seen cheering Collin on during the endurance competition don’t just train together, they push each other constantly.

“We’ve become great friends,” said Shephard of Miller. “We’ve trained together from time to time. We’ve gone to Australia together. She helps me, I help her. She’s a lot further in her career, not time-wise, but just her caliber. She’s a great mentor and a great friend. She just helps me a lot.”

One of the ways that Shephard pushes herself is the prize money you get for winning, but also her own progression. Despite this year having a bit smaller field for women at the Johnny Appleseed Festival, thus a little less competition, she was able to stay focused through her own personal goals.

Times Observer photos by Cody Elms Miller, left, hugs Collin Shephard just minutes after the end of the endurance competition where Shephard placed second.

“Johnny Appleseed has always done a really phenomenal job at having a great number of women’s events, and then a variety and equal prizes,” said Shephard. “You always want to win. You always want to be the best. You don’t go, ‘oh, I want to be sixth today.’ But I keep a log to track my time on different sizes so that I can always know if I set a P.R. (personal record) today. Am I getting better? It’s much more of a true metric if you’re just gaging your performance against yourself instead of others, but if you beat other people, then you get prize money.

“It’s great to have a P.R. and a check for gas money.”

Most of the competitions aren’t just down the road, like in Sheffield, so it can mean a lot of gas money. Shephard’s appreciation for the local event goes far beyond logistics.

“Volunteers that plan and execute the Johnny Appleseed Festival do an amazing job,” said Shephard. “Their efforts result in a unique, community event that offers something for everyone. The competition itself is one of the most professional and well-run competitions in the world. Nathan and Holly Waterfield, as well as their families, deserve a huge kudos and recognition.

“At many other competitions, the competitors need to clean up and sometimes even time themselves,” Shephard said. “We do none of that at Johnny Appleseed. We get to just focus on our events and the wood crew does the rest and does it exceptionally well. We’re spoiled (here)!”