Martha still king of lumberjills

Worldwide reaction to the COVID pandemic postponed many events during 2020. Some of those postponements involved competitive activities. But despite the layoff in competition, Chadds Ford’s favorite lumberjill picked up in 2021 from where she left off — with a national championship.

Martha King scored another first-place win in this year’s Stihl Timber Sports Series last month, just as she did in 2019. Days later, she won another competition. And while she’s well known in the sport and her hometown, King received some extra national exposure on Aug. 5 when she appeared on the Kelly and Ryan Show in honor of her win.

“It felt a little like being a movie star. Maybe just for a little bit. I had my own little changing room with big lights all around the mirror, comfy couches, and snacks,” King said. But she was also impressed with the professionalism of the crew on the show.

“It was really cool to be on set to see all the different lights, the cameras, all the people who are so good at what they do. It was all so proficient. I picked up some interesting perspectives.

Segments of the show included King demonstrating skills used for bringing down a tree and chopping logs down to size for transport. There was also a 2-on-1-event in which King used a saw to cut one end of a log while co-hosts Ryan Seacrist and Katie Lowes (substituting for Kelly Rippa) used a two-person saw on the other end. King won.

She said the week leading up to her appearance on the show was a “whirlwind adventure.”

“I went from Hayward, Wisc., where I competed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, partied Saturday night until the wee hours of the morning and slept for maybe three hours. Left Sunday morning to come back here. I drove about 1,200 miles, only sleeping a few hours so I could get here in time to get a COVID test — a rapid test so I could appear in-studio — unpacked my truck, repacked the car, took a shower, then mom and I drove to New York. I was exhausted.”

As King picked up a different perspective on what goes on behind the scenes of a TV show, she also reflects on her life and approach to her sport.

While there’s no ball to hit or throw, no tackling of an opposing player, timber sports require athletic skills such as strength, speed, coordination, and mental focus. But King said she doesn’t train like an athlete.

“I don’t go to the gym. I think I could probably be even better if I added some sort of gym regimen to my official training but, because timber sports, lumberjack sports, are so unique, what I have to do is only practice my event. And that is my workout.”

King is lean, 5’8”, 130 pounds. And while many of the women she competes against are large, she said it comes down to technique.

“My training now that I’m working for my parents [Rob and Katharine King, owners of Chadds Ford Tree Service] consists of dragging brush all day, running chain saws. So, I’m activating my core all the time...That’s my perfect workout.”

She doesn’t know how many times she swings an ax during her specific practice times but said it’s a lot. She swings a light ax but with a lot of repetitions.

“I’m looking to maintain strength and to fine-tune. I need explosive speed and quick reaction time. I need to be fluid. If I were too bulky, I wouldn’t be able to move the way I need to.”

Then there’s the mental focus part of her training, working on proper breathing and breaking down aspects of her technique, things she’s been struggling with, honing her mental and physical approach as she might hone her axes.

“There’s definitely a lot of mental stress,” King said, and she deals with that through her faith.

“It sounds crazy, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Christian music lately and words have power. So, I seek out songs that are encouraging, that build me up and encourage me to trust God in all things,” she said.

She also spends a lot of time praying, reading, and with people who are encouraging. Those encouraging people are those she can talk to during those times when she’s feeling flat.

“They pick me up. It’s really important to have that community. …It’s God first, family second, then everything else. I just keep in mind that God has provided for me, time and time again, in ways more profound than I could have ever imagined. So, I just had to trust that he’s good in all things and I will give him my best out there. I will compete for him; I want to honor him first and foremost because he gave me the gift I have.”

Faith has been a big part of King’s life. She said she’s always been competitive, even as a young child playing Simon Says during church activities.

“Dad said he could just watch my face; everything would change as we started the round, and I would just zone in. He said you couldn’t shake me,” she said.

With all the championships she’s won, there is one that remains elusive.

“I have yet to win the underhand world title at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. So, I’d like to go back to Australia and compete over Easter if the borders are open and compete for that underhand title. That’s the one I want to win.”

Video clips of Martha King’s appearance on Kelly and Ryan:


About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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