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April 4, 2007
They entered the competition as decided underdogs. But thanks to excellent preparation, a skilled team that worked together with seamless precision and the history of one of the most storied mining programs in the country powering their every effort, they left with a world championship.
On March 24, the University of Nevada, Reno's mining team won the world championship at the 29th International Collegiate Mining Competition. The event was held in Tucson, Ariz.
More than a week later, team captain Noah Millett can hardly believe what has happened.
"This team of individuals had never been to this competition before, so our chances didn't look too great," said Millett, whose team was comprised of students in the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering –- long considered one of the finest mining schools in the country. Mackay is an academic unit within the University's College of Science.
Millett added that it was the team's sense of Mackay's 99-year history, as well as a lot of hard, punishing training, that helped spur the team to victory.
"We would train for the events at the soon to be demolished practice field behind the Palmer Engineering building (on Nevada's campus)," he said. "We started practicing during the fall semester four times a week and as the competition got closer we practiced nearly every day. Although the intense practiced helped make us consistent in all the events, the reason why the team was so good was that we worked together; each individual had his strength or weakness and team members would pick up where other members lacked."
Nevada's six-person team bested 14 other men's teams, including four teams from Australia and a team from Great Britain. The competition included events such as hand-mucking, hand-steeling, timber sawing, track laying, and gold panning.
When the long day of events was over, the Mackay miners took away the first place trophy for overall performance, making them world champions for the first time since 1999. The mining team took second place in hand-steeling, second place in timber sawing, and third place in hand-mucking. Members of the team included Millett, Garrett Schult, Jeff Shoffner, Rusty Turner, Sam Saunders, and Wes Leedy.
And, like the Florida Gators in men's NCAA basketball, the University could very well be on its way to a repeat performance at next year's competition.
"It feels great to join the excellence of Mackay's history, but it's even better to be ensuring the continuation of Mackay tradition into the future," Millett said. "In the 29 years of the competition's history, this was Mackay's sixth victory and we are committed to making sure it is not our last ... all six members will be returning next year."
Millett said that the competition, though it is quite physical in nature, also had an important psychological component, which helped motivate all of the contestants.
"It is important to remember this competition was created to honor the victims of the 1979 Sunshine mining disaster," he said. "With each rail laid, each pull of the saw, and each swing of the hammer we memorialize the 91 victims of that disaster and every miner who has died working to extract the resources necessary for society."