It is an event that is suspended in time. People helping people; the type of heroics born only in Hollywood. A 20-car pile-up on Wyoming’s Interstate 80 would create a sense of camaraderie unique to campus sport.
Seven months ago, on a return trip from Santa Cruz, Calif., the majority of CSU’s logging team lay quietly asleep in the back of their rented van, awaiting a safe return home.
The mid-afternoon sunlight glared for a moment off the van’s windshield, as the faint sun ducked behind spitting snow clouds. Suddenly, the team’s van plunged into a white-out. “Oh god, oh god, oh god,” Brian Gley remembers screaming. The 21-year-old logging team captain was awakened by shrieks from the front of the van. The driver lost control and slid into a pile of already destroyed cars and trucks.
More cars and trucks were on the way.
One team member leaped out of the van hoping to escape the wreckage, only to be hit by an oncoming car.
Another, John Solis, a 22-year-old psychology major, remembers being pulled into a corner of the wreckage seconds before a car careened into his window.
“If it wasn’t for Cowboy, I might have died,” Solis said, rolling up his shirtsleeve to reveal scars running the length of his tricep. Jon Hayden – or Cowboy as he is affectionately referred to – a 20-year-old sophomore forestry major, had saved Solis from further injury.
As the team emerged from the wreckage, they began to realize the severity of the situation.
Six men and women ended up dying in the snowy wreck.
“A lot more lives would have been lost if not for the real heroes,” Solis said.
Members of the logging team, some of them certified Emergency Medical Technicians, began administering care to dozens of injured victims. CSU’s logging team ended up saving lives.
“A family looks out for each other; we did anything we could to help out,” Gley said.
Out of the wreckage emerged a sense of camaraderie. After seven months the team is closer than ever.
“We saw a lot of life and death that day,” Solis said.
Hayden echoed Solis’ sentiment.
“The accident brought us together, it was incredible,” Hayden said. “None of us knew each other on the way down to California, but we became close after the crash.”
The logging team now meets every Wednesday at Avogadro’s Number for drinks. They cherish the time spent on and off the practice field each week.
“Guys and girls want to be at practice now, it’s a chance to relax and meet people,” Gley said.
“I feel attached to it, sometimes just thinking about throwing an ax helps me get through the day,” Solis added.
Logging has become a lifestyle for the team. Hayden’s bushy, grizzled beard is a reminder that there is more to life than school and work.
“I feel more freedom, more in touch with nature now,” Hayden said. “The outdoors are powerful and relaxing.”
CSU’s logging team meets for practice every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The uniforms they wear, the equipment they use and the trips they take come mostly from “out of pocket” contributions, according to Hayden. Aside from an occasional local donation and $750 per year from CSU, the logging team provides largely for themselves.
But the team’s only real obstacle is lack of exposure in the community.
“I wish they knew about logging, period,” Hayden said.
Gley thinks that almost any student would have a good time at logging.”
“Throw an ax, come check it out,” Gley said. “We exist.”
Sports feature writer Mathew Planalp can be reached at email@example.com.