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Hoeschler Boom Runs to gold
By Steve Wright
ESPN Great Outdoor Games staff

RENO, Nev. — Judy Hoeschler was shocked to hear what came out of her daughter Abi's mouth after the women's boom run practice Saturday at ESPN's Great Outdoor Games.

"She said, 'Mom, I'm going to win this thing,'" Judy recalled. "I couldn't believe it. She's not audacious at all. For her to expose herself to me with that kind of confidence was unusual. I knew then it was going to be a good weekend."

Women's Boom Run
Sixteen-year-old Abi Hoeschler defeated Taylor Duffy to win the Women's Boom Run gold medal on Sunday.
And it was just that. Sixteen-year-old Abi Hoeschler, the youngest competitor in the timber sports, won the women's Boom Run gold medal with a time of 16.4 seconds Sunday. She defeated 20-year-old Taylor Duffy in the final, which pitted members of two famous Wisconsin timber sports families — the Hoeschlers from LaCrosse and the Duffys from Hayward.

"Abi is quick, she's tiny and she's fast," said Duffy. "She's everything a boom runner needs to be."

The gold medal race was even until Duffy fell just past the halfway point of the return run. Hoeschler kept her balance and never looked back. The 5-foot-1, 108-pound Hoeschler barely moved the logs in her boom as she sprinted across them.

"I didn't see her fall," Hoeschler said. "I thought she was close. I knew I had to be fast if I was going to win."

Judy Hoeschler was a seven-time log rolling world champion. Like her daughter, Judy won her first title at the age of 16. But when ESPN announcer Adrian Karsten asked Abi if her mom's boom running had inspired her, Abi replied, "No, her boom running isn't that great."

It was a comment that delighted the large crowd gathered in Rancho San Rafael Park. It brought a smile to mom's face, too.

"I taught my kids to be honest," Judy said. "I think she was just being honest."

Sunday's competition began with an upset in unusual fashion. Mandy Erdmann, 21, who had won the last three gold medals in the boom run, was pitted against 30-year-old Jenny Atkinson, who is known as "the boom queen." Atkinson won the Ladies World Championships in Heyward, Wis., in 1991, the first year a title was awarded in this event.

"That could have easily been the final," Atkinson said of her match against Erdmann. "Both of us were feeling the pressure and we amped it up."

In the boom run, the competitors run off a dock, then across a set of eight rolling logs that are attached end to end. They run onto another dock, circle a stanchion and then run back across the boom logs to the starting line.

Erdmann and Atkinson were close after circling the stanchion, then Atkinson slipped off the fourth log on her return and fell in the water. Erdmann was only two logs from the finish line when she too took a spill.

Getting back up on a rolling log is no easy feat. Atkinson was struggling to get back in the race, but fell again while trying to stand on the log. Erdmann did the same thing. When she came up, she was only a few feet from the dock and the finish line. Realizing she had some time, since Atkinson was struggling, too, Erdmann slowed down and tried to compose herself.

Meanwhile, Atkinson had regained a perch on the log. She was up and running before Erdmann could stand and Atkinson sprinted past her for the victory.

"I really believe in never giving up," said Atkinson. "I've watched this event many times and seen some comebacks at the end. I just kept thinking about giving it 110 percent."

However, Atkinson didn't get the chance to record another comeback. In her semifinal run against Duffy, Atkinson fell about the same place she did against Erdmann. However, Duffy never flinched in sprinting to the finish line.

That's all last year's silver medalist Shana Martin did — flinch — in her semifinal against Hoeschler. Martin briefly struggled to keep her balance on the return run, and that's all Hoeschler needed to win.

Atkinson defeated Martin in a close race to win the bronze medal.

Duffy was not disappointed in taking home a silver medal. As a point guard on the University of Wisconsin-Superior women's basketball team, Duffy suffered a knee injury that required surgery in December to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. Then she pulled a quadriceps muscle in training for the boom run. After every race she would go in the medical tent to receive massage and ice treatment.

"The way I look at it, pain is weakness leaving your body," said Duffy, in explaining how she played through the pain this week. "I wouldn't wish knee surgery on anybody, but I think it got me in better shape. It also helped my balance because I had to work on that to strengthen my knee."

Hoeschler, the 16-year-old, was feeling no pain as she flashed a gold medal smile on the awards stand. Now she can go back home to LaCrosse and show that gold medal to the 22 students she teaches in log-rolling classes at a pond near the Hoeschlers' house.

"This is very exciting," Hoeschler said. "It's something I've been working hard for."

Final Standings — Women's Boom Run

1. Abbie Hoeschler, La Crosse, Wis.
2. Taylor Duffy, Hayward, Wis.
3. Jenny Atkinson, Grand Marais, Minn.
4. Shana Martin, Madison, Wis.
5. Mandy Erdmann, La Crosse, Wis.
5. Lizzie Hoeschler, La Crosse, Wis.
5. Tanya Fischer, Hudson, Wis.
5. Maggie Bulk Claremont, Calif.