If you’re going to operate a crane in a competition, you want weather like Saturday’s bright, cool sunshine.

“It couldn’t be a better day,” said Andrew Seid, 28, who flew out from Boise on Saturday as a last-minute entry in the Crane Operator Regional Rodeo, held at Industrial Training International’s site in Woodland. “I thought it would be a good time to come out and give it a whirl.”

Seid, of Seid’s Crane Service, took first place with a set of smooth operating skills that left the local folks slack-jawed in admiration.

“He’s jamming — this guy’s really good,” said Breck Weage, heavy equipment lead instructor at West Coast Training in Woodland. “He’s kicking butt!”

Crane operation requires precision, control, speed and safety. Skills can only be acquired through training and lots of experience. Crane rodeos such as the one in Woodland are designed to assess an operator’s ability to control a load.

Eight crane operators entered Saturday’s competition, which ITI’s marketing manager Jonah Hobson called an “awesome turnout” for the first year of hosting.

Each competitor had to operate a telescoping crane in three events:

n Place a 12-inch-diameter heavy ball inside a 55-gallon drum, lift it out and place it inside a second drum, then return to the first within 5 minutes.

n Carry a 55-gallon, water-filled drum in a slalom through four other barrels and back to the start within 5 minutes.

n Stand up a cement-filled pipe and lay it back down facing the opposite direction within 5 minutes.

The goal is to get the lowest score. Points are added for errors and for any time over 5 minutes.

Cami Pearson, 22, of Woodland was the only woman in the competition. She’s one of 40 students at West Coast Training.

“I was very gentle and had things under control,” said Pearson, who scored 1,593.5. “I had no deductions (for errors), but my time was a little over.”

Stever Frein, crane lead instructor at West Coast Training, intended just to watch the rodeo, but Weage persuaded him to enter.

“I sit in a crane maybe 15 minutes a month,” Frein said, but his 33 years of crane experience served him well.

His score of 850.8 was the highest — until Seid showed up and blew everyone away with 395.4.

“He was smoking,” Frein said.

The Woodland event was one of five regional crane rodeos, and the top two scorers in each — including Seid and Frein — qualified for the championship, to be held March 6-7 at a contractors expo in Las Vegas.

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