Drilling past expectations
October 28, 2006
Surrounded by thousands of screaming Nevada Day revelers, the best hand rock drillers in the West faced the block of Sierra white granite Saturday afternoon and pounded past the pain.
A rock driller from Carson City set a personal record after a grueling, fast-paced drill that left him faltering in the end. The crowd wouldn’t let him rest. Tobin Rupert, 40, finished at 9.5 inches, more than half an inch past his 2005 drill.
“I didn’t get 10 (inches) but I was real close,” said Rupert, who was covered in a layer of white granite dust. “I caught a piece of granite in my eye. I would’ve had my 10, but I lost focus.”
The Nevada Day 32nd Annual World Championship Single-Jack Hard Rock Drilling Contest in the parking lot across from the Carson Nugget was a mixture of triumph over adversity and tiny moments of glory.
Despite an aching arm after his 5.4-inch drill, a proud new father carried his newborn boy before the crowd of fans.
“My arm is like steel,” said Ted Rupert, holding blue-blanket bundled two-week-old Jett.
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Ted Rupert, who followed his brother into the sport about two years ago, didn’t surpass his 2005 drill. That’s one of the difficult aspects of rock drilling, he said. You can practice daily and still come in second to last behind the 20- to 30-year veterans.
The old-fashioned mining method goes like so: the driller swings a hammer over his head and pounds a hand-forged steel drill bit into the rock. After each hit, the driller will rotate the bit inside the hole. A helper washes the hole out with water to remove the granite shards. This goes on for 10 minutes. Thumb hits are common.
The experts drill as deep as 13 or 14 inches in 10 minutes. This time limit is unique to Nevada. Contests outside the state are usually five minutes. Champion drillers hit the bit with 80 to 90 strokes a minute.
Beer-sipping spectators watched the return of a local legend. Recovering from surgery, former Carson City resident Pat Hines powered about 76 strokes a minute to finish at 9.75 inches.
“He just had an appendectomy, so he’s probably not in his best form,” said rock-drilling fan Pat Moore. “But he looks pretty good to me.”
The 43-year-old bent over the rock after his last swing. Hines’ teenage son, Cody, who was his assistant, hugged his dad afterward.
Tonopah native Brock Boscovich, a 30-year-old emergency room doctor at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, drilled 8.3 inches after a three-year absence from the competition and only two weeks of practice.
“I made it,” Boscovich said afterward. “I feel horrible.”
He guzzled a Bud Light and kissed his girlfriend, Jen St. Marie. It was her first time seeing him drill.
“I’m glad it’s over and his hand is not broken,” said St. Marie, a 25-year-old ER nurse from Reno.
Tom Donovan, of Reno, took home the $2,000 prize for the second year in a row.
“This is our best one ever,” said Nevada Day Rock Drilling Chairman Fred Andreasen. “This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen. There’s a few thousand people here I think.”
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.
Rock drilling results
1. Tom Donovan, 14.35 inches, Reno, $2,000
2. Skip Leedy, 12.62 inches, Reno, $1,500
3. Grady Colby, 11.03 inches, Ridgeway, Colo, $1,000
4. Steve MacDonald, 10.37 inches, Golconda, Nev., $750
5. Matt Decker, 10.5 inches, Safford, Ariz., $500
6. Craig Leedy, 9.92 inches, Reno, $250
7. Pat Hines, 9.75 inches, Durham, Calif.
8. Tobin Rupert, 9.5 inches, Carson City
9. Brock Boscovich, 8.3 inches, Reno
– Other regional residents’ results –
17. Ted Rupert, 5.44 inches, Carson City
18. Joey Goss, 5.1 inches, Reno