Schroeder's hop takes the top

SALEM, Ore. -- It doesn't take long to notice that defending STIHL Timbersports boom run national champion Alyse Schroeder's running style is slightly different than that of the seven other women competing at the 2010 STS National Championship in Salem, Oregon. At 5-foot-7 and 110 pounds, Schroeder is, in her own words, "A bunny — I have a little hop in my run."

Schroeder's "hop" powered her to the fastest time of the day in Friday's quarterfinals with 11.06 seconds on her first run, nearly a half-second faster than the day's second-fastest runner, Katie Rick from Plymouth, Minn. (11.59).

Schroeder, from Hayward, Wisc., ran clean all day long, gliding through several morning practice runs and two timed quarterfinal heats without so much as a waver. Several other runners, though, hit the water halfway back from the turnaround after losing their balance on the yellow log, the smallest, lightest of the six logs in the course.

"We all run differently," Schroeder said "I'm so light, I don't really have an issue with the little logs. I'm 5–foot-7, 110 pounds, mostly legs. Some of the other runners hit the logs harder, but my thing is that I don't really like to stay on the logs. I just try to go as fast as possible so I'm not on any of the logs for very long. I felt like I did that pretty well today."

Rick fell off midway after the turnaround on her second heat, but her 11.59 from the first heat pushed her into second place, followed by 17-year-old Taylor Duffy from Hayward, Wisc. (11.76) and Jenny Atkinson from Stillwater, Minn. (11.91).

Duffy was the only one of the four who improved her time in the second heat, from 11.76 to 11.75.

"I'm a little surprised by that," Atkinson said of the first-heat times. "I personally thought my second run would be faster, but boom running is so finicky, you never know what's going to happen. My first run was clean, but it didn't feel super fast. I just thought we'd lay some faster ones down in the second run."

Atkinson's 11.91 was just .02 faster than fifth-place finisher Olivia Judd's 11.93. Other runners who didn't advance include Abby Hoeschler (11.96), Mandy Sobeich (12.25) and Shana Martin (23.66)

Defeating the yellow

Of the 16 combined runs among the field of eight, seven ended up with a runner in the water. All of those falls came after the turnaround, roughly halfway through the course, either two or three logs after the short yellow log positioned one log away from the tournaround.

"Oftentimes, the log you fall on, the fall starts a log or two before," Atkinson said. "The little yellow log was right after the barrel, so it was already moving and not necessarily centered again, so it was in an interesting spot."

The two yellow logs on the course will be positioned back-to-back in Saturday's semifinals.

"That puts a whole new twist on the race," Schroeder said. "The way I run I think I can put one step on each log, hopefully. At least, that's what I'm going to try in practice. A more powerful runner like [Duffy], I think she'll want to two-step those yellow logs. It's going to be interesting to see how that changes things."

Those yellow logs will be positioned one log away from the platform, which virtually demands that the four semi-finalists all get good starts.

"You won't have very much speed when you first hit them because you'll only get to hit one log and then, boom, they're right there," Atkinson said. "Your first few steps are so critically important to be on and gaining speed. I mean, you have to be flying at the end of the first log."

Schroeder, Rick, Duffy and Atkinson compete at 11:30 in the semifinals of the boom run Saturday on Day Two of the 2010 STIHL Timbersports National Championship in Salem, Ore.