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April 11, 2008
By Guia Del Prado
The University’s Mackay Muckers defend their title in the 30th annual International Intercollegiate Mining Competition on April 10 – 12 in Rolla, Mo. The Mackay Muckers will compete with top mining schools from Australia, Canada, England and the United States. The three different teams share similar expectations of high standards, challenges and, of course, fun.
Two men’s and one women’s team, each of which is composed of five or six students, represent the Mackay Muckers. Every year, they prepare for the international competition which includes seven events of old fashioned mining techniques such as hand-steeling or the Swede saw. Last year, the Mackay Muckers men’s team won the international title and its return to the competition has the team members anxious for another title.
The 22-year-old captain of the winning team, Noah Millett, hopes its reputation won’t get to the Mackay Mucker’s heads. The feeling of having to live up to past performances has induced some nervousness among the team.
“Hopefully we don’t go in there thinking we’ve already won it,” Millett, a mining engineering senior from Henderson, Nev. said. “It’s tough to feel like we have to match what we did the year before.”
For those new to the team, including freshman mining engineering student Drew Wheeler, 18, the anxiety to compete at the same level as the veterans is another distraction.
“I try and be at their level but I’m not,” Wheeler, an Elko native, said. “I’m kind of nervous in that aspect.”
Greg Stokes, a 21-year-old geological engineering major from Reno, joined this year to be the Mackay Muckers team captain. He hopes that working with last year’s defending champion men’s A team will help improve his group’s skills and chances at the competition.
“It helps having the A team as the defending guys…and practicing against them,” Stokes said. “The team learns from them to improve their game.”
The three teams practiced separately everyday throughout the week in the days before the competition. On weekends, the teams met to practice for three to four hours and compare times together.
“School comes before the mining team, but that’s usually not true,” Millett said with a smile. “They’re pretty relaxed practices, but the events can wear you out pretty quick.”
The challenge of balancing the mining team with school is more difficult now with the semester coming to a close, said Stokes.
“We’ve been practicing every day for the past three weeks,” he said. “Right now, all the professors are assigning papers.”
Along with spending hours practicing for the mining competition, some students on the Mackay Muckers teams also live together, do schoolwork together and spend time during the weekends together.
“I really don’t feel like the new guy,” Wheeler said. “We all get along and we all hang out. It’s almost like a big family.”
Despite the pressures of winning and doing well, the mining team emphasizes having fun in the events.
“I hope we all go there and have fun,” Millett said. “Who knows, maybe we’ll bring back some trophies.”