DURHAM, N.H. — Paul Smith's College junior Kurt Karboski leaned over teammate Matt Bolton as the eager senior carefully fastened the handle on the J.P. Mercier single buck saw.
With the University of Connecticut's Corey Christians taking first place in both the underhand chop and the stock saw, both men knew the single buck offered Bolton his only chance to win the event and earn a ticket to the Collegiate Series Championship in Columbus, Georgia.
"He told me to stay calm and get a couple cuts in, then open it up and it would cut — and it cut," Bolton said.
Karboski's advice came from his own experience in the same STIHL event last year, where he had fallen to the eventual Collegiate Series champion Jay Blackburn. But this year, it was Bolton's turn to represent the Paul Smith's lumberjack contingent after beating Karboski in a "saw off."
Those last-minute words from his former rival proved invaluable for Bolton. The 23-year-old posted a single buck time of 16.81 seconds to give the Canandaiqua, N.Y., native his eventual victory — but only by the "skin" of his saw's teeth.
"If he (Christians) would have had a better saw, he would have won straight out," Bolton said shortly after the final results came from the judges' deliberation.
Christians had ultimately found his Achilles heel in the form of his team's old M-tooth saw. After earning his Associate's Degree from Paul Smith's College and transferring to UConn, the 21-year-old created the club in February of this year. Since its inception, the six people who made the two-hour drive to Durham have been searching for members just as thoroughly as they've searched for equipment.
"I knew it would be hard to jump in front of anyone with our M-tooth," said Christians. "Hopefully, they'll still take me in the wild card for Georgia."
Based on his performance, the Huskies' philosophy major has a very good chance of earning the wild-card berth to take the fifth spot in the June event.
"Equipment cost him and that's just a part of the sport," said STIHL TIMBERSPORTS professional lumberjack Mike Sullivan. "It used to happen to me all the time — shoot, it still happens today."
Instead, Christians finished in second place on the warm, New England spring day. The University of New Hampshire's Josh Edwards took third place followed by John Little from Finger Lakes Community College. Rounding out the top five was Devin Randall, representing Unity College.
Not to take anything away from the event winner, Bolton's consistency proved crucial to his victory. Taking second place in the underhand chop, fourth in the stock saw and first place in the single buck, Bolton showed strength in his overall performance.
"I had three goals coming into this year: First, to win the spring meet. Second, to win at Sir Sanford Fleming. And third, to compete in the STIHL Collegiate Championship," Bolton said.
After Saturday, Bolton can strike two goals off his checklist.
The University of New Hampshire event will be broadcast later this year on ESPNU. Fans of the series can also get the latest information and up-to-date news and video on all the competitions by signing up for the Quick Cuts e-newsletter.