Tyler White was eavesdropping shortly after the conclusion of the Northeast Conclave at Paul Smith's College in New York.
He had just barely finished second to Jon Preston of Paul Smith's, and was wandering by the STIHL tent when he heard the word "wildcard."
The STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Challenge presented by Carhartt goes to five different regions -- Midwest, West, South, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeastern -- qualifying the winner of each for the collegiate championship. After all five events are completed, STIHL chooses who they feel was the best competitor not to qualify and gives them a wildcard invitation, rounding the championship field out to six lumberjacks.
Brad Sorgen of STIHL and Dave Jewett, ESPNU STIHL TIMBERSPORTS announcer and professional competitor, were casually talking about the merits of the 43 lumberjacks they had to choose from. White's name came up.
"Check the times," White said. "If another guy's times are better than mine, go with him."
Last week, White, a 22-year-old majoring in Agricultural Equipment Technology, received a call from Sorgen informing him that his times and effort were indeed good enough, and he'd be representing SUNY Cobleskill at the championship in Salem, Ore., in late August.
"When Brad called me to inform me that I was the wildcard, I was speechless," White said. "When I told the rest of the guys on my team our school chant broke out, and I was almost tackled to the ground."
For White, the invitation was the icing on a year-long cake celebrating SUNY Cobleskill's arrival as a lumberjack threat in the Northeast. The club has been around for eight years, but White said hard work and guidance from lumberjacks like STIHL TIMBERSPORTS and former collegiate competitor Nathan Waterfield has taken the club to new levels this year.
"I have only been competing on the team for two years and we've come a long way since I started," he said. "In terms of skill and equipments and, just, everything -- we're moving up and I think it shows."
White has roughly four months to train and get ready for the championship, where STIHL TIMBERSPORTS will award the winner an automatic spot in the 2011 professional series. But training might be easier said than done for White, who will be working on a grain harvesting crew from May through November.
"That's been my big concern since I got the news," White said. "I plan to train on whatever wood I can get my hands on and when I can't find wood, I'll swing a sledgehammer into a tire. It's not ideal, but I'll do everything I can do."
Here is the full field of championship lumberjacks:
Kory Garrie, SIU-Carbondale, Midwest
David Green, Central Oregon Community College, West
Logan Scarborough, North Carolina State, South
Tim Benedict, Penn State Mont Alto, Mid-Atlantic
Jon Preston, Paul Smith's College, Northeast
Tyler White, SUNY Cobleskill, Wildcard (Northeast)