On the South West side of La Pine High School is a small clearing between the trees. And in that clearing, you’ll find the school’s Future Natural Resource Leader students hard at work.
Now this club might not be like ones you’re thinking of. Led by their teacher, Cameron Salvitelli, the students participate in timber sports to bolster their learning physically and technically. These sports range from learning how to properly use a whipsaw to being able to identify different trees or animals. And yes, they do get to climb trees.
“The main takeaway is hopefully they find something within the industry that they’re passionate about and within that passion, hopefully they find a career connection or even maybe a trade that they’re into that they can pursue after high school,” Salvitelli said.
In Oregon, there are around 40 schools that have a similar program to La Pine, about 20 of them compete in timber sports competitions. Many of those schools send 15 to 30 students to compete. Last year, La Pine had nine.
However, quality will always beat quantity, and despite facing much larger schools, La Pine placed 3rd in last year’s state competition.
“It made me really proud,” Salvitelli said, “I’m really proud of the kids here. We have a small, tight knit community, so this year we’ve been working on getting the community more involved.”
Sports like basketball and football have MVPs of the season, often given to the best player on any given year. For timber sports, that’s called the Logger of the Year. And last year, La Pine’s own Jaret Lorimor took home the honors as a sophomore.
“They had these big podiums, we went up there and when we got our picture taken, it felt amazing,” Jaret said. “I’m really hoping to do really good again. I’ve been practicing every night after school; been working out here with Sav ’til dark.”
The next timber sports season doesn’t start until the spring, but until then, Salvitelli and his team will keep working on their skills and climbing up those trees even higher.
The team plans to hold their own competition at home by the end of February.