Spinmeisters

updated 07/28/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/28/2003 01:00AM

Some college freshmen ward off homesickness by bringing along a favorite stuffed animal. When Katie Hoeschler left Wisconsin for Vermont's Middlebury College three years ago, she shipped a 12-ft., 450-lb. cedar log—and persuaded administrators to let her take it for spins in the pool. Sister Lizzie brought her own lumber when she arrived on campus two years later. Says Katie, soon to be a senior: "It must be in the blood."

It would seem so. In the world of log rolling—where two contestants mount a log, spin it fast and try to toss each other in the drink—Katie, 22, and Lizzie, 20, are part of a dynasty. Along with sister Abby, 16, the Hoeschler girls are among the favorites at this year's world championships, set for July 25-27 in Hayward, Wis. The sibling rivalry is friendly but fierce. Katie, who lost to Abby in last year's world championships, calls her sister "a ferocious little knee-high ankle biter." The girls are coached by their mother, Judy, 46, a seven-time world champ who retired in 2001. The family ties don't stop there. Little brother William, 12, plans on joining the pro circuit, and Judy's brother, niece and nephew also compete. Says Sean Duffy, announcer for ESPN's Great Outdoor Games: "They make things happen on a log."

Judy's husband, Jay—"the father of my four beautiful log-rolling children"—rarely tackles trunks. But the real estate developer, 49, did build a practice pond near the family home in Lacrosse. At Middlebury, Katie and Lizzie have tried to spread log-rolling fever, even rolling a beer keg at a party. Still, Judy thinks the sport—which requires stamina and fancy footwork—keeps them on an even keel. "There is a philosophy of log rolling," she says. "As long as you're balanced and moving to the top, you will be fine."

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