Rollin’ the Natatorium Tide

Log Rolling Club Prepares to Host 2019 Middlebury Invitational

By Erin Kelly

Erin Kelly
Chloe Fleischer ’21.5 practices rolling against a teammate during practice in preparation for the tournament.

Sports Editor’s Note:

I am a member of the women’s varsity swim team. I spend 20 hours a week selling my soul to the pool. Water is my natural element. 

That being said, log rolling is hard. Really hard. For someone so confident, I spent a truly embarrassing amount of time sinking below the surface, rather than spinning on top. The movement itself seemed simple enough as I observed from the deck. However, once on the log, it didn’t matter how many times I was told to stop jutting my butt backward and flailing my arms; I simply couldn’t stay up for longer than 10 seconds. 

 I sincerely applaud the log rolling team on their amazing abilities and focus. Best of luck this weekend! 

Middlebury’s log rolling club will host the 2019 Middlebury Invitational this Saturday, March 16 in the Natatorium. The event will begin with an informal coaching workshop from 12:00-1:00 p.m. and then transition into the tournament from 2:00-5:00 p.m. The Panthers will face off against teams from George Mason University and the University of Vermont. Middlebury students of all log rolling abilities are invited to join both parts of the event.

“We’re just going to be rolling here all day Saturday,” social chair Chloe Fleischer ’21.5 said. “Even if people have never rolled before, we still encourage them to come out because there’s a lot of people who will be rolling for the first time at the tournament. It will be super casual and fun.”

 In a log rolling competition, two rollers stand side-by-side on the log and must manipulate the log by spinning and rocking in order to knock the other person off. Participants may not touch each other or cross the center line but are allowed to splash as a means of distraction. If the rollers are facing the same direction on the log, it’s called a running match; if they are not, it’s called a bucking match, and a roller receives a point each time their competition falls off the log first. 

A typical tournament begins with a round-robin session in which participants are placed in small groups and compete within that group in a best out of three format. Based on the results, rollers are then seeded into the actual tournament bracket and compete in a best out of five match.

Middlebury’s team meets twice a week on Sunday afternoons from 3:30-5:00 p.m. and Wednesday nights from 7:00-8:30. Club president Sarah Howard ’19 first joined the team after being exposed to log rolling during international orientation and said that even though log rolling is technically classified as a recreational club, she considers it to be a real sport. 

“It’s physically exerting, and there’s a lot of learning and skill development,” Howell said. “It doesn’t come naturally to anyone. You have to get used to the sensation of something rolling under your feet in the water and get over the idea that you’re not going to die and hit your head. When I first got on the log, I was on for a split second, but now I’ve greatly improved.” 

Middlebury boasts the oldest ties to log rolling on any college campus; it was approved as a PE credit in 2005 and as an official club in 2011. The sport came to the Panthers with the arrival of the Hoeschler sisters: Katie ’03.5, Lizzie ’05 and Abby ’10. The three were trained by their mother, a world log rolling champion, and their family donated the first log to the college. Abby is now the founder of Key Log Rolling, a company that makes the 65-pound synthetic logs the team currently rolls on. Key Logs spin like traditional 350-pound wood logs but are much more accessible for college campuses.

Today, the club is coached by Danielle Rougeau, an Assistant Curator of Special Collections and College Archives. Rougeau initially signed up to log roll when Katie hosted an informal class in 2004 but became immediately hooked on the sport.

“I saw it offered and I thought, ‘How cool is this? I will never have an opportunity to do this again,’” Rougeau said. “But there’s nothing else that feels like rolling. It was really about centering yourself and balancing yourself, and I just loved the sport. It was low-impact, not dangerous and a ton of fun. It was really quite addictive.”

Under Rougeau’s leadership, Middlebury’s team has already won numerous past tournaments and looks to be a favorite this weekend. Rougeau said the Panthers “sweep most competitions” because Middlebury is one of few schools with regular access to logs for practice and has a core team of about seven passionate rollers.

“My rollers are now getting good enough that they beat me,” Rougeau said with a smile. “For me, coaching is a true joy. [I love coming to practice] because I get to be a better teacher and they get to be better rollers. Then, hopefully they’ll keep teaching other kids for years to come.”