They came with their flags – from Canada, England, Brazil and Australia. They came in their school colors – from the Colorado School of Mines, Missouri S&T, Virginia Tech and Montana Tech. They came to Lexington, where the University of Kentucky was hosting the 39th Annual International Collegiate Mining Competition.
Held each year to honor 91 miners killed in the Sunshine Mine Disaster of 1972, the competition brings together students from across the world to go head-to-head in seven historic mining events.
While the University of Kentucky had never hosted the competition before, senior Hunter Gillispie said he and the other members the school’s mining team – The Mucking Wildcats – were up to the challenge.
To achieve their goal, the Wildcats (seen above competing in the ore muck) had to start from the ground up. They needed equipment. They needed a competition site. They needed corporate sponsors like Martin Marietta.
When word that the university was seeking financial support for the competition reached Vice President of Talent Management Kelly Bennett, she and other company leaders jumped at the opportunity.
“The mining competition is a great place to meet and connect with a variety of talented students from many different universities, and we’re always interested in speaking with new and dedicated professionals who have an interest in mining-related careers,” she said. “It also allowed us to promote Martin Marietta as an attractive employer.”
One of the competition’s larger supporters, Martin Marietta sponsored the Hand-Steel contest, a popular timed event in which five-member teams pound a piece of drill steel into a block of concrete using nothing but a hammer and some brawn. Many years ago, the practice was the primary method for drilling holes for explosives. Today, success in the Hand-Steel is determined strictly by depth; the team that drives the drill steel deepest wins. Other competition events include the Track Stand, Ore Muck, Gold Pan, Swede Saw (at left), Jackleg and Survey contests.
Several employees volunteered their time to serve as event judges, including Kansas City District Vice President-General Manager Bill Podrazik (at right) and Mideast Division Director of Operations Services Matt Schwent – both past competitors – and Indiana District HR and Safety Manager Jeff McIntosh, Indiana District Area Production Manager Chad Weems and North Indianapolis Quarry Mine Supervisor Ethan Strain.
Podrazik, who has competed five times in the past and this year judged the Hand-Steel event, said he was unable to think about the competition without contemplating the industry’s rich past.
“These events really make me appreciate the technology we have today,” he said. “I think the students get that as well. The competition really gives them a chance to appreciate the history of the profession and how far we’ve come in terms of technology and safety.”