PAUL SMITHS — Jon Preston won the Stihl Timbersports Northeast Collegiate Challenge Saturday, capping off an impressive weekend for the Paul Smith’s woodsmen’s teams in the 64th annual Spring Meet.
Paul Smith’s College won every major category except for the overall men’s championship, which went to Finger Lakes Community College. Rosalie Santerre captured the women’s collegiate challenge, its women’s team won the overall team title, its Jack and Jill team took first place, and Tyler Rothe won the Ironjack competition on Friday, the first day of competition.
“It means a lot because these are the three events that are recognized nationally,” Paul Smith’s coach Brett McLeod said about the individual competitions. “It’s big to win Spring Meet because it’s a regional competition, but it’s even bigger to win things like the Ironjack where these guys are going to Alaska to compete. To win (the Stihl Timbersports Challenge) in the men’s and women’s division is as big as it gets.”
Eleven colleges from the Northeast went head-to-head in the Spring Meet, the biggest event of the year for these woodsmen teams. The events were held on the Great Lawn at Paul Smith’s and attended by hundreds, if not thousands, of cheering spectators. ESPN was also on hand, filming the Stihl Timbersports Collegiate Challenge.
While Preston and Santerre both won titles, they got there in much different ways. Preston has been preparing mentally and physically for this event for a year or more, but Santerre only found out last week that she would be competing.
That’s because Leslie Brodbeck was supposed to represent Paul Smith’s but she injured her elbow last week and had to pull out. Luckily for the Bobcats, they had someone more than capable of stepping up and performing on a high level.
McLeod said Santerre was one of the team’s top performers during the season but had a bad day during the time trials that determined who would represent the Bobcats in the collegiate challenge.
“So her finishing first wasn’t a surprise for me,” McLeod said. “I knew if she had an opportunity here, she’d take it.”
The women’s collegiate challenge consisted of three events: single buck, underhand chop and stock saw. Throughout the season, Santerre had competed in the first two events but hadn’t focused on the chainsaw.
“I’ve run a chainsaw because I’m a forestry student, but I hadn’t really worked on competition,” Santerre said.
Preston, however, has had his eyes on the men’s title for a long time.
“For the last two years, Jon has trained every day of the week in the four disciplines that make up the Stihl Timbersports series,” McLeod said. “He does this everyday for two years straight all for this, all for this two hours of competition here.”
With the win, Preston advanced to the collegiate championship to be held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Stihl Timbersports Professional Series at the Oregon State Fair in Salem, Ore. from Aug. 27 to 29.
After winning, Preston hugged his parents and was excited but said the win hadn’t sunk in yet.
“The reaction hasn’t set in yet,” Preston said. “I’ve worked really hard and this day came up so fast and now it’s over real quick, quicker than it got here. I don’t yet; we’ll see tomorrow.”
The men were timed in the same three events as the women, in addition to standing block chop.
Preston won with 40 total points, just three points ahead of second-place lumberjack Tyler White, of SUNY Cobleskill. Gabe Darling, of Alfred State, claimed third place with 31 points and Dartmouth College’s Max Brogen placed fourth with 29 points. Zach Scribner from Finger Lakes Community College rounded out the top five with 25 points.
Santerre captured the women’s title with 31 points. Second-place honors went to Kendra Trammel, of Finger Lakes, with 28 points. Hanna Gauvin, of Unity College, claimed third place with 22 points and the University of Maine’s Sasha Bogdan placed fourth with 21 points. Megan Bujnowski from the University of New Hampshire rounded out the top five with 19 points.
There are no additional rounds for the women. Eleven students competed in each of the events.
In the men’s team competition, which took place throughout the weekend, Finger Lakes took first place after scoring 1,592 points. It just barely beat the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, which totaled 1,585 points.
The teams are judged on categories ranging from canoeing to sawing events.
After the Finger Lakes’ victory was announced Saturday night, the team erupted in a wild celebration.
“It’s indescribable,” said Scribner, one of the Finger Lake’s top woodsmen. “We were down and out the rest of the season and we practiced like hell. We came back, we won it by six points. It’s like winning the Super Bowl.”
The Paul Smith’s men’s teams took third and fourth places.
In the women’s division, Paul Smith’s picked up 1,606 points to beat Finger Lakes, which finished with 1,571. The Paul Smith’s Jack and Jill team finished with 1,635 points to beat Alfred’s 1,426.
To take first place in so many categories was something Paul Smith’s coach relished.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” McLeod said. “We’re sort of the measure of competition for every other collegiate lumberjack sports team in the nation. To be able to beat major universities with 30 and 40,000 students and we have 900 students that we pull from and we’re able to completely dominate — that’s a result of this not just being a sport for these students but it’s a total lifestyle. They are woodsmen through and through, whether they’re on the field or in the woods.”
Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
Paul Smith’s lumberjack Jon Preston hacks away at a log during last weekend’s Spring Meet. Preston earned a trip to Oregon after winning the Stihl Timbersports Northeast Collegiate Challenge.