SALEM, Ore. -- The soggy jerseys and shorts on the women competing in Saturday's boom run semifinals at the 2010 STIHL TIMBESPORTS Series National Championship told the story of the day: stay dry or don't advance.
Defending national champion Alyse Schroeder was the only one of the four runners to log two clean runs on a difficult course, matching her best time from Friday's quarterfinals with 11.06 seconds to advance with the No. 1 seed to Sunday's final.
Schroeder hit the water for the very first time all week on her last practice run of the morning, but was flawless in both semifinal heats to post the fastest time of the day by over ¾ of a second. The rest of the field endured multiple falls in practice and at least one more splashdown apiece in the semifinal heats.
"It's definitely a harder course today," Schroeder said of the log layout, which had the two smallest, most unstable logs the yellow ones positioned next to each other just one log removed from the starting line. "Running it in practice, it was a lot harder then I thought it was going to be. We were all like 'Oh my gosh, wow, this is going to be interesting.' I just wanted to stay dry, and go balls to the wall."
Katie Rick overcame a fall on her first run on the green course and posted an 11.81 on the red course to advance to her first STIHL TIMBERSPORTS final. The Plymouth, Minn., runner fell crossing the second yellow log on the way back on her first run, but fought through a bobble on the same log on her way back in heat two, lunging across the line to post a time that was just ahead of third-place finisher Taylor Duffy (12.03).
"I thought I was going to biff it again on the second-to-last log," Rick admitted. "I just pulled super hard. I was down with my legs almost in the water, but I just pulled super, super hard. It takes concentration and determination to pull yourself through when you're down like that."
Pulling through or, more accurately, just surviving the course was the first priority of the day for all four runners following a brutal , soggy practice round that came as the result of the double-yellow layout.
The challenge was compounded by a temporary shift of the starting line, which pushed the runners one step closer to the first log, with fewer strides to gain momentum before hitting the first yellow log.
That starting point was moved back to its original position for the heats, but the challenge of getting across the yellow logs still kept veteran runner Jenny Atkinson who fell on the way back on both runs and Duffy from advancing.
"I think what happened is that the second little log bucked me, but it didn't buck me until my second stride later, on the long long," said Atkinson, who's fastest time was a 17.58 on her first tun. "That second stride on the long log just buckled me to the side both times. The same thing happened to me both sides."
Duffy's first round featured the wipeout of the event, with the Wisconsin native losing her balance on the second yellow log and falling forward onto the long white log before flipping headfirst into the water.
Her second run started almost identically, with a stumble on the double yellows on the way down, but she recovered for a quick turnaround to post a 12.03.
"I didn't really feel 100 percent in the warmup," Duffy said. "I walked away from warm-ups not feeling that I had this boom down. On the fall, I was just trying to be so fast that my body just got ahead of my feet. I don't even know what happened. All I knew was that my face was on the log. It was like I was sliding into home base."
Schroeder and Rick will compete Sunday for the 2010 boom run title at the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series National Championship.