Years of masonry skills were put to the test late Saturday morning when 10 of the region’s best bricklayers competed for a chance to attend the 2012 Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 National.
The 10 masons and their tenders anxiously stood beside the piles of Boral bricks that would soon be assembled into 26-foot, 8-inch double width brick walls within a 60-minute limit. The higher the wall, the better, but quality is still a top priority.
“Just because you lay the most bricks doesn’t mean you’re going to win the competition,” said Jason Stutts, a judge and bulk mortar sales manager for Quikrete.
The competitors must scramble to construct a high-level wall, while considering that after it’s all said and done, the judges will inspect the plumb point, joint thickness and the look of the brick. The main challenge is speed and having the stamina to stick to such a quick pace for a solid hour, while providing a finishing product that a customer would be happy with.
Fred Campbell, a Limestone native and brick mason of 22 years, says the contest is realistic and can be compared to a job situation similar to the project he and fellow Limestome Masonry employees are working on at Science Hill High School.
“It’s just like every day,” he said. “You watch them as you lay them and lay all you can.”
Saturday’s Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 took place at the Appalachian Fair Grounds and was the first regional competition to be held in Tennessee. Campbell stacked up 849 bricks to take the win with the help of his masonry tender, Tony Shelton of Greeneville. The duo will get a free trip to Las Vegas for the nationals where the winner will take home a brand new truck.
An hour of free and intense labor on a beautiful Saturday doesn’t sound worthwhile, but Campbell says it’s all about being the best and meeting other people within his trade. The first place finisher took second in the Charlotte, N.C., regionals last year and was able to attend the Las Vegas competition since the winner triumphed in the previous nationals.
“The masons as a whole really do a good job to support the industry and this competition started about nine years ago and it’s grown from a few guys with a few regions to 16 regionals across the country,” Stutt said. “There’s just a competitive spirit and it’s the nature of the trade.”
Marlene Scott also felt the pressure to succeed when she decided to join her boyfriend Terry Montgomery in the Bricklayer 500. After agreeing to be a tender, the Jonesborough native says she also experienced some doubt because of her gender.
“I was kind of worried and didn’t know if I could keep up but I did OK,” she said with a smile.
Scott was one of two female tenders and after the initial nerves, her competitive nature shined through.
“I think I did pretty good and I would know what to do the next time even better,” she said. “It was a learning experience.”
Team work and experience are a necessity in any winning partnership. Both the Montgomery and Limestone Masonry teams faced the hourlong challenge with diligence and some intuition.
“It’s all about trying to pay attention to what he needs and staying ahead of him with the mud and brick so that he doesn’t have to wait for anything,” Scott said.
“He knows what I need and exactly where I need it set so it just works out good,” Campbell said of Shelton. “Just like a pitcher and a catcher.”
Travis Taylor and Richard Taylor of Taylor Masonry layed 578 bricks for a second place finish in the Bricklayer 500. Zach Guire and Oscar Herrera of Wasco Masonry took third place with 547 bricks layed and the craftsmanship award was given to Tim Campbell and Keith Springer, another Limestome Masonry team.