Competitors rock solid at Nevada Day single jack rock drilling contest

A large enthusiastic crowd gathers at the World Championship Single Jack Drilling Contest on Saturday.

A large enthusiastic crowd gathers at the World Championship Single Jack Drilling Contest on Saturday.

It’s a big week for Carson City’s Ryan Green.

On Saturday, he competed for the first time in the 40th annual Single-Jack Rock Drilling Contest as part of the Nevada Day celebration. On Tuesday, he will see if he’s elected to his first term on the Carson City School Board.

However, he didn’t let his nerves about the one affect the other.

“They’re totally different,” he said. “This is for me. The school board is for the community.”

The drilling competition, reminiscent of the Comstock days when miners drilled holes in the rock to place dynamite, allows each competitor 10 minutes to hammer a steel bit into a piece of granite. The deepest hole wins.

In his inaugural attempt, Green, 35, drilled a respectable 5 and 9/32. Despite ending the day with bloody knuckles, he said he’ll be back next year.

“This is addicting,” he said. “The pain feels good.”

Tobin Rupert, 48, owner of Rupert’s Precision Gem Cutting, returned for his 12th year. Recovering from torn shoulder muscles and tendonitis, he said he came in at about 50 percent of his normal strength.

“But I had about 200 percent courage,” he said. “At about six minutes, I knew my shoulder was going to stay strong, so I was lighting it up.”

However, it wasn’t as productive as he’d hoped.

“I was laying into that thing,” he said. “It just wouldn’t go anywhere. I’m telling you, I hit some hard spots.”

Still, he said, he was happy with his 7 18/32 drill.

“That’s just the way it goes with rock drilling,” he said, “you never know what’s down there. It was really fun.”

Tom Donovan, 50, of Reno, won his 10th and second consecutive world championship.

“Happy birthday, Nevada!” he yelled to a cheering a crowd.

“For the rest of his life he’s going to be able to say, ‘I was the sesquicentennial champion,’” pointed out announcer Johnny Gunn.

Donovan, who has not missed a competition on Nevada Day since 1984, said the secret to a good drill is in the first 15-20 strokes.

“What it comes down to a lot for me is if I have a good start,” he said “If it turns nice and cleanly and you don’t get stuck. And then a lot of it just comes down to luck.”

Craig Leedy, 54, of Reno, eked out sixth place, beating out younger brother and five-time world champion, Skip Leedy, 52, by one-32nd of an inch. It was his first time ever beating his brother in is 27 consecutive years competing at Nevada Day.

“I feel good about it,” he said. “I feel lucky.”

Skip was happy with it as well.

“We’ve been pushing each other for a long time,” he said. “I’m proud of him.”

But not too happy.

“I’ll get him back,” he said.


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