Round One of the springboard event found one competitor from Pool B on his back in the sawdust, while another made his cuts with such ease that he bested the field by more than seven seconds.
Matt Bolton, the 2008 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate champion, fell from his second cut's perch. And the runaway winner from Pool B was Jason Wynyard, runner-up in last year's Professional Series and a favorite to challenge reigning champion David Bolstad.
Wynyard posted a 46.720-second run on the springboard to lead the field, followed by Laurence O'Toole in 54.537 seconds and Mike Sullivan in 59.610 seconds.
"The wood was really soft and I didn't think I had decent board holes at all," Wynyard said. "It's good to break the 50-second mark, but it would have been nice to get closer to 40."
Wynyard, who has been praised by fellow competitors for his consistency across all events, said he finds the springboard especially difficult.
"It's a pretty tough first event for me because I'm one of the bigger guys out there," he said. "So it's nice to get this one over with."
Sullivan was also pleased with his performance in what he described as a tough pool top to bottom. Sullivan narrowly qualified for the finals last year and is hoping to advance this year by a wider margin.
"If I had one single thing to really stick to it would be to be consistent and not make mistakes," said Sullivan, breathless after just finishing his chop. "Mistakes will kill you in this pool system."
The top four from Pool B after all events are completed will advance to the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Finals in Columbus, Ga., later this month.
After Jason Wynyard posted a blistering 13.03-second time on the stock saw, the event looked to be all but locked up.
That is, until veteran lumberjack Warrick Hallett stepped up. Hallett posted a time of 12.417 seconds to best Pool B, relegating Wynyard to a rare second-place finish. But for Wynyard, who last year made the critical mistake of hitting the choke on his saw prior to his first cut, even second place was a victory.
"Just trying to get a nice pick-up of the saw is probably the hardest thing for us," Wynyard said. "On the down cut I could feel the saw wasn't in the right spot, but thankfully I figured it out on the up cut."
The second-place finish also contributed valuable points to Wynyard's overall total. Hallett and Wynyard were followed in third by the 12.373 time posted by Mike Sullivan, who was pushing to be one of the top four qualifiers from Pool B.
The standing block chop is an event where precision is just as important as brute strength. Iin the end, it was the physically strongest competitor in Pool B, Jason Wynyard, who was able to combine both for the fastest time, a full two seconds ahead of his closest challenger.
Wynyard broke through in 16.445 seconds, followed by Laurence O'Toole at 18.930. Trailing in third was David Moses, who managed a 20.825 in the second heat.
Despite a slow start, O'Toole's second-place finish kept the young Australian in the hunt to challenge Wynyard. But O'Toole, who described his chop as "very average," said he was still looking for improvement over the final few events.
"I'm a much better chopper than I am a sawyer," said O'Toole, "and I like the underhand chop better. So I'll see if I can turn the tables on Jason in that one."
When asked about strategy, O'Toole simply replied that he has none.
"I don't worry about what anyone else does," he said. "All I think about is not jumping the gun."
The second heat of the single buck for Pool B pitted old vs. new, rookie vs. veteran, as 2008 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Collegiate Series champion Matt Bolton took on veteran Warrick Hallett.
Tthe fresh arms and legs of Bolton overtook Hallett with a 14.39-second time to Hallett's 21.005. Bolton's finish was only good enough for third place in the pool, but it gave the rookie much needed confidence going into the final two events.
"To win any of my heats is an accomplishment, and this is one of my favorite events," Bolton said. "To look up and see him (Hallett) only three-quarters of the way through his wood was amazing."
Bolton's 14.39 was also a personal best for the young sawyer, beating his previous fastest time by more than two seconds.
Yet New Zealander Jason Wynyard once again stole the show, posting a 11.453-second cut. He was followed in second by Jean-Pierre Mercier in 13.037 seconds.
"It's nice to get back on single buck," Wynyard said from the stage after finishing his cut. "This event is one of my favorites. It wasn't exactly a world-record time, but it was nice to get the cut off without too many hang-ups."
Both Laurence O'Toole and Hallett, who had previously been in the hunt to finish in the top four of Pool B and advance to the finals, were hurt by poor finishes (sixth place and eighth place, respectively).
David Moses was in sixth place in Pool B going into the underhand chop, and needed a top performance to put himself in contention for the top four heading into the hot saw.
"Sweet! That's the best I've ever seen him chop!" said fellow competitor Arden Cogar, Jr.
Moses finished his chop in 19.695 seconds, good enough for third in Pool B but well ahead of the other challengers for the third and fourth position overall.
In second place with 17.905 seconds was underhand chop world record holder Jason Wynyard, who was upset by Laurence O'Toole's time of 17.690. Wynyard, despite not winning the event, secured the title of Carrhartt Chopping Champion with 23 total chopping points.
But it was Moses' finish that got the Thanksgiving Point crowd cheering.
"It went well," Moses said modestly after the event. "I could have chopped a little bit better on the back."
There was also some question as to whether Moses might have nicked his foothold, which would result in a disqualification. Further inspection by the judges revealed he had not made an illegal cut, and Moses moved into third overall going into the hot saw.
His strategy for the final event?
"Just make a clean cut."
Only seven points separated the third-place competitor in Pool B, David Moses, from the eighth place competitor, Cecil Starr. With only four spots up for grabs in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Finals to be held later this month, the pressure was on in an event STIHL TIMBERSPORTS announcer Kevin Holtz called "absolute insanity."
In the end it was Mike Sullivan, who was second in the hot saw, and Jean-Pierre Mercier, who won a stock saw tiebreaker, that earned the final two spots in Pool B. They finished behind Jason Wynyard, with 46 overall points, and Laurence O'Toole, with 31.
Wynyard walked away with the fastest hot saw time after battling debilitating problems with his saw throughout 2008.
"I was pretty determined after last year's poor performance to build something better and faster," said Wynyard, who was running his new hot saw for the first time in competition. "It was a really good result. I thought it ran really well."
Wynyard dominated his pool to advance to the finals, but said he had a long road ahead of him before the next event.
"My performance was OK, but I was a bit rusty on a few things," he said. "I definitely have room for improvement in all the events, but I was just really happy to advance today.
"I have a lot of things to work on before the next round."
The hot saw also was the final event to determine the STIHL Sawing Champion for Pool B, which went to Wynyard after edging Jean-Pierre Mercier with 23 points to Mercier's 18.
The top four competitors from Pool B to advance to the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Finals on June 19-21 in Columbus, Ga. are: Jason Wynyard, Laurence O'Toole, Mike Sullivan and Jean-Pierre Mercier.