MORRISVILLE, NY — SUNY Morrisville alumnus Andrew O’Connell is gearing up for a busy year. He crushed the Men’s US STIHL® Rookie Championships in Little Rock, Arkansas, July 21, taking home a gold medal, setting a national rookie record and landing a spot in the STIHL® Rookie World Championships in Sweden next year.
Training starts now for the world event, O’Connell said in a recent telephone interview.
“The two months leading up to the US rookie finals, I was training about 20 hours a week after work,” O’Connell said.
His full-time job as a heavy equipment operator in Buffalo, New York, keeps him busy, but as work slows in the winter, he’ll be ramping up hours of training for the world championships.
O’Connell shocked the world in the standing block (chop) competition at the rookie championships, breaking the rookie record with a 13.8-second finish. Top placings in stock saw, springboard chop and underhand chop — a couple of seconds off from the world record — helped to secure his win.
Since he left SUNY Morrisville, O’Connell has been captivating audiences in lumberjack shows throughout the country for DLW Timberworks, a team which showcases all the skills from the timber sports world, from log chopping to axe throwing, to chainsaw carving and log rolling.
Long before he came to SUNY Morrisville, O’Connell was wielding axes in his hometown of West Falls, a hamlet in the town of Aurora, in Erie County, cutting down trees and splitting fire wood for fun.
He joined SUNY Morrisville’s Woods Sports Team while studying natural resources conservation, where his precision and power-packed swing from years of playing baseball turned heads and earned him top wins, among them earning a ticket to the national STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® Series Championships in 2018.
A love for the sport has kept the 24-year-old outdoorsman in the game.
“Standing block is still one of my favorites, but I really enjoy springboard now that I get to do it in competition,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell is the college’s first woods sports team member to make it to nationals. Led by coach Seth Carsten, instructional support associate and a former professional woodsman, SUNY Morrisville’s team started in 2015.