Big Jon

PAUL SMITHS, N.Y. -- Elaine and John Preston strategically placed themselves beside the STIHL tent at the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Series Northeastern conclave at Paul Smith's College on Saturday.

The mother and father of Paul Smith's College competitor Jon Preston, they wanted to know the results before anybody else.

Considering Preston went into the final event of the day, the single buck, with a one-point lead, it's safe to say his dad, John, was "hovering" around the computer with the results.

Preston's lead competition, SUNY Cobleskill 's Tyler White, was in an earlier heat, setting a mark of 28.39 seconds. It wasn't a perfect cut, but it wasn't a bad cut.

Preston didn't have any inside information from his dad, but he had watched White's cut and "counted the seconds in my head."

By the time he took the stage and set up his single buck saw, all the Prestons knew his situation: beat 28 seconds and win the conclave, do worse than 29 and finish second. Anything in-between would result in a saw-off.

"Twenty-one seconds," Jon's father John said before head judge Don Quigley started the competition. "That's what he usually cuts this in."

Preston didn't quite make that mark, but he came plenty close, dropping the cookie in 22.06 seconds to win the conclave and earn a spot in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Championship presented by Carhartt, which will be in Salem, Oregon in late August.

"It hasn't set in yet," said Preston, who will graduate this spring. "I've worked really hard for this day and it came and went so fast, I probably won't know how I feel until tomorrow when it all sets in."

The victory completed a home-field sweep for Paul Smith's College, with Rosalie Santerre winning the second annual STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate women's competition earlier in the day.

"Look around at all the people who came out to support the team," Preston said. "We had an incredible amount of support."

But things weren't always looking up for Preston, who started the day with an underhand chop that took 1:03.57, which was twice as long as he had hoped.

"That's something I'm going to have to work on and train for all summer," he said.

He was happy with stock saw (17.81 seconds - second place), and went into the standing block tied with White for first place. White was in an early heat and impressed himself with a time of 32.62 seconds.

"For me, to go through the standing block in 32 seconds is phenomenal," White said. "It came apart like butter."

Preston was unfazed, completing what he described as a "flawless" standing block in 31.68 seconds to give him his only event win of the day and the one point lead over White going into the single buck.

"Overall, it was a great day and all the events went well," Preston said. "But I have a lot of work to do this summer. I need to work on everything."

Preston said he'll be joining a lumberjack show in Wisconsin this summer, which will have him training five to six days a week to get ready for the championship.

Preston was the fifth and final qualifier for the event from the five regions of the Collegiate Series. Within the next couple months, STIHL will choose a wildcard -- one of the second-place finishers from the five regions -- to round out the championship field at six.

"I know there's a lot of great competition out there," Preston said. "I have to get better."