The Lady Muckers take on the 41st Annual International Collegiate Mining Competition

The Mackay Muckers had enough female recruits for both men's and a women's teams for the first time in five years.

Lady Muckers team captain Claire Roberts smiles through the mud after competing in the team's first event of the day, single jack hand steel, where competitors hammer a steel chisel into a concrete block as quickly as possible.


3/27/2019 | By: Jennifer Kent |

When asked if she could think of a more proper term to describe her female team members other than "badass", Claire Roberts, Captain of the Lady Muckers - the Mackay Muckers women's team, thought for a minute before answering.

"Kickass? That's not much better, is it?" Roberts asked.

The "kickass" Lady Muckers competed on Friday, March 22nd in the 41st Annual International Collegiate Mining Competition in Virginia City alongside teams from all over the country and the world. The teams compete in old-school mining techniques such as single jack hand steel (hammering a steel chisel into concrete by hand), jackleg drilling, hand mucking (shoveling "muck" or dirt into a mine cart and running it down and back a length of track), gold panning, track stand (quickly assembling an un-assembling a rail-cart track), and swede saw (sawing through a 6x6" block of wood).

left: mucker participates in hand steel. right: Lady Muckers pose for a photo

Left: Lady Mucker Madison Freitas participates in the single jack hand steel. Right: The Lady Muckers from left to right: Kaitlyn Hill, Madison Freitas, Claire Roberts, Sage Gandalfo, and Simone Gaab.

This is the first time in over 5 years the Mackay Muckers have had enough female recruits to have a women's team at the competition.

"What I think is really great about the women's team is that it's all support," Roberts said. "Everyone's out the pushing one another. We're together all the time and we've created a great bond. It's a really great competitive, positive environment."

Different College's host the competition each year, and this year was the University of Nevada, Reno's opportunity to show off the uniquely Nevadan setting in Virginia City. The rich mining history was the perfect backdrop to the competition. The Lady Muckers started the day competing in single jack hand steel at 8 a.m. and ended the day with one of the more rigorous of the events - hand mucking.

"Being a part of this team is a huge confidence builder," Roberts said. "Physically, this is not easy stuff. Doing some of this stuff really proves you can do anything if you practice and try hard."

Virginia City Fairgrounds

The competition was held at the Virginia City Fairgrounds.

Claire Roberts with father Ken Roberts

Claire Roberts with father and Mackay Muckers alumni Ken Roberts.

The Mackay Muckers have been competing in the Mining Games since 1978, and three of the current team members, including Roberts, have fathers who competed together in the 80s.

"To see Claire jump into this stuff and have fun doing it, it's really impressive," father of Claire Roberts, Ken Roberts said. "All the women on the team - to see how good of a job they do - they're good."

Related Academic Program

Also carrying on the family legacy are a recent graduate of the Mackay School and last year's team captain Emma Baker and member of the men's team Austin Lemons. Vern Baker, Craig Lemons and Ken Roberts had the opportunity to compete alongside their children at this year's competition as part of the Mackay Muckers Alumni team.

The women's team finished with high scores in each category - a successful first year competing together as an all-female team.

"I think this just proves that we can do anything," Claire Roberts said. "It's great to see how interested in and excited everyone is about this competition. It really pumps me up and gets me excited for the future."


For more news on the University of Nevada, Reno, follow @unevadareno on Twitter.

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