It’s a good thing the Millers own property with several acres of woods because Julie Miller, 37, of Italy-Friend Road, is preparing for a trip to Australia where she will compete against world-class athletes from around the globe in a Stihl Timbersports competition.
For the second consecutive year, she is a member of the U.S. National Timbersports team that will be traveling to Adelaide for an international competition, where she will compete against about 50 women from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
In late July, Miller finished in seventh place in the Stihl Timbersports Women’s Division Championship held in Milwaukee, Wisc. Aug. 18 and 19 she participated in a show in Boonville.
Miller is one of the best female lumberjack athletes in the country. She qualified for the Championship by finishing in the top eight out of 40 top athletes in June.
A soil conservation officer at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation office in Penn Yan, Miller became involved in Timbersports as a student at the SUNY College for Environmental Sciences and Forestry. She turned professional in 2002, and has been competing against other professionals for the 16 years since then.
Like other elite level professional athletes, Miller sticks to a schedule of workouts that might seem daunting to anyone else — gym time all year, running, cardio workouts, and training at home on four disciplines three to four nights a week.
Sawing and chopping are the top skills needed for this “jack (or jill)- of-all-trades” sport, and Miller says her strongest discipline is the single buck saw. In this competition, the athlete makes one cut through 19 inches of white pine using a single man cross-cut saw. According to the sport’s website, the saws used in competition are “finely tuned, racing-only, top fuel dragsters of hand saws” that rely on cutting technology born more than 100 years ago but given a modern polish.
She owns her own tools and uses a specially prepared racing ax for competitions stateside, but she’ll borrow an ax that is specifically prepared for use on the harder wood types used in Australian compeition.
While she’s known as one of the top “choppers” in the nation, she feels she needs to work on her mental game more, admitting that sometimes nerves get to her during big events.
While she is a member of a team, she usually works out in solitude, although she has gotten together with other athletes in the region. There isn’t any real coaching in the sport, but she and other athletes share tips and techniques.
Miller feels her real strength is being a cheerleader for other team members. One of her goals is to make sure the younger women athletes coming up behind her have a good foundation for future competition.
The competitions are a family affair for the Millers. She met her husband, Mike, as collegiate team members. Their son, Ethan, 11, a Prattsburgh School 6th grader this year is picking up an ax and saw every now and then, competing in junior competitions.
The national champsionship will be televised on ABC at 3 p.m. Sept. 30, Oct. 7, and Oct. 14.
For more information about Stihl Timbersports Series, visit www.stihlusa.com/stihl-timbersports