49ers at 123 years

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New Mexico Tech's 49ers Homecoming celebration represents the college's history as a mining and technology school. During New Mexico Tech's homecoming week, students, alumni and the Socorro community come together to recognize history, tradition, and participate in various events that will be held throughout the weekend starting on Thursday, Oct. 18.

The tradition of painting the letter M on the mountain by New Mexico Tech students dates back to 1916, said Van Romero, vice president of research and economic development. He said painting the letter M was an influence for other mining schools, such as Montana School of Mines and Colorado School of Mines, to put up similar letters of their own. The tradition of re-painting the letter took place during the first snow. Classes were cancelled for the day, and on the mountain, students waited until the snow melted to mix water with lime powder and go over the letter M, Romero said. By the 1930s, students no longer waited for the first snow to melt to re-paint it.

"Painting of the M isn't easy and takes a lot of effort," Romero said. "Like going to school at Tech, it's not easy, but rewarding."

The letter M is the most prominent symbol of the university, he said. It's a real symbol of the school. The re-painting project draws 100 students each year, and this year he is expecting 250 people to turn out for the event. It's the longest tradition at the university, he said. To re-paint the letter, students are using marble dust instead of the lime powder. There is a health and safety issue with spreading the lime powder around, Romero said.

"We don't have college athletics," Romero said. "Homecoming is our only opportunity to show school spirit. Our one chance to celebrate the history of the school comes down to one weekend."

Romero said he painted the M when he was a student at Tech in 1973. Back then, the re-painting of the letter M was on St. Patrick's Day, a tradition that stopped in the 1980s.

"It (49ers) is an important tradition for New Mexico Tech, but also Socorro's heritage in mining," Romero said. "We see it as an important part of school and the community."

This year painting the M is a Friday event beginning at 8 a.m. This event is open for alumni, Tech students and the whole Socorro Community. Painters meet at the Tech Athletic Field. Registration for this event is required by Thursday, Oct. 18 via email at paint@nmt.edu. There is a $20 fee for non-students and non-staff. The first 20 individuals or teams to reach the M wins. However, only students are eligible to win $50 as a prize for making it to the top of the mountain.

Also, free hamburgers and drinks will be provided at the top of the mountain.

This year's 49ers theme is "123 years of Miners Shooting Pirates," says Student Activities Officer Merline Montoya. She said there will be plenty of activities for Tech students and alumni to enjoy during 49ers week. The events kick off on Thursday Oct. 18 with a field day starting at 3 to 5 p.m. on NMT's Athletic Field with different clubs on campus.

"Casino Night and Bordello have been my favorite since freshman year," says Student Government Association President Sohaib Soliman. "Because students enjoy themselves and dress classy."

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers club will have a barbecue with a knife thrower, and the Nerf club will have an event after the barbecue from 5 to 7 p.m., Montoya said.

At 8 p.m. Thursday, there will be a magician, Jay Mattioli, at Macey Center, said Student Activities Board Coordinator Annine Gabaldon. And Tech's Local Area Network Gaming Club will host outdoor Tetris from 8 p.m. to midnight at the La Raj.

"A lot of the events are tradition. We all feel it's good to keep the tradition of 49ers past, and all stuff continues," Gabaldon said.

At 2 p.m. Friday, there will be a tailgate party prior to the Black and Blue rugby game at 4 p.m. There will be music, and at 6 p.m, Alpha Sigma Kappa will host what was formerly the Green Mile, now the Undi Run on Tech's athletic field after the rugby game. The Undi Run is when students run around campus in underwear, Gabaldon said.

The student activities board will have a black and blue booth where students can get their faces painted, Montoya said. Keeping the tradition, on Friday night after the Black and Blue rugby game, there will be a social at Capitol Bar for the rugby team, Tech students and alumni. The Vigil Aunties will also perform, Gabaldon said.

"The events that most people attend are Casino Night and Bordello," Montoya said. "Black and Blue gets more students, as well. A lot of students don't care about the events, so we incorporate more events. Our main concern is to give back to the students and make sure they enjoy the events that are put on."

On Friday night, the waffle club will have a waffle rave with techno music in the student activities center at 8 p.m. Students will attend a black light party, cook waffles and serve tea, Gabaldon said.

The "123 years of Miners Fighting Pirates" parade will take place on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 11 a.m. The line-up starts at 10 a.m. According to Montoya, student activities will have a float and anyone else who wants to participate in the parade needs to sign up with Michael Olguin at 835-5618 or molguin@admin.nmt.edu.

The Capitol Bar and Sheriff's Department also have a float in the parade, Gabaldon said. Following the parade, at the Old Town plaza, there will be an awards assembly and trophies will be given out for everything from old cars, floats and horses. The Bureau of Geology Department also makes plaques to be given out, says Gabaldon. The plaques are all made out of rock, and each one is individually made by Doc Stanley from the Bureau of Geology.

"We like to incorporate new things, student-wise. It gives kids things to do throughout the weekend," says Gabaldon. "All alumni are welcome to participate in all 49ers events."

Saturday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,there will be knife throwing at the athletic field, then there will be numerous soccer games on the field, including an alumni game, which starts at noon. After that, there will be a co-ed soccer game at 2 p.m., Gabaldon said.

According to Montoya, there will be a car show at the Macey Center parking lot hosted by the New Mexico Tech Off Road Club. Casino night will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. in the lobby at Macey Center on Saturday night. At 7:30 p.m. the belly dance club will perform, then Bordello at 8 p.m. There will be a group and solo dance, where girls and guys get auctioned off, Montoya said. All the money collected from Bordello will go towards a local cause. After Bordello, if students have money left over from casino night, there will be an auction for students to bid on items, such as DVD packs, laptops, and "even bigger stuff," Montoya said,

A new event at 49ers will be the Tech dash at 11 a.m. Sunday, with relay teams of two. The dash will have participants complete a physical or mental challenge, Montoya said. It's on a Sunday, because in the past Sundays are the days when students usually don't attend homecoming events, Montoya said.

Student activities board will have a barbecue after the dash. For 49ers, residential life will have various events starting at 1 p.m. at the athletic field, Gabaldon said. Those students who attend homecoming events will enjoy free items, such as pirate bandanas, T-shirts and skull shot glasses.

"As a student I enjoy being a part of the tradition, it's what everyone talks about." Montoya said. "It's what everyone looks forward to."

The tradition of the Black and Blue rugby game of the alumni Ancestors, versus the student Pygmies, takes place during New Mexico Tech's 49ers homecoming week. It's the unofficial homecoming game, said Sport Club coordinator/rugby director Dave Wheelock. The colors black and blue are the jersey colors for the team. According to Bill Tafoya, an alumni/rugby player of New Mexico Tech, the New Mexico Tech Rugby Football Club was founded by Tim Franklin in 1973. Fun was the priority, and the colors black and blue reflected the condition of the players, because it was a rough game.

A lot of people show up for the rugby game, Wheelock said. It takes place on the athletic field at Tech. The format for Black and Blue has been steady, and the game will take place at 4 p.m. on Friday. Wheelock will give an on-site broadcast play by play of the game and rugby players who are not playing in the game will help him broadcast. The broadcast will help audience members who may not be familiar to what is happening on the field, he said. There will also be free food at the game.

"It's an opportunity for past former students to come back and visit the town and Socorro, and the students get soaked by the administrators," Wheelock said.

Wheelock has been a coach for rugby since 1998, and started playing in 1972 at The University of New Mexico. To get more people to participate in the Black and Blue rugby game, he uses word of mouth, fliers and posters, he says. For rugby, there are a total of 15 men out on the field, with 25 players for the Pygmy team, and 20 alumni players, and the numbers for the teams vary throughout the years, he said.

"It's tough at Tech to retain players for rugby, the curriculum is difficult, and we lose players after a year because of the homework burden," Wheelock said. "It's a big commitment to travel for road games."

The Black and Blue rugby team has practices throughout the year and during the spring season. Men practice three nights a week starting the first week of classes.

"It's a real friendly rivalry game and a heck of a lot of fun because we never know who will return year to year," Wheelock said. "The Ancestors are a strong team."

The alumni soccer game keeps the 49ers tradition alive since it has been around for 10 years. It's great to have former players to play against the new competition, said soccer coach Brad Winton.

The alumni play the current soccer team, and it is important to keep alumni support, he says, to represent the school. The alumni game will take place at noon on Tech's Athletic Field on Saturday.

"We will play our best we can do 49ers weekend," Winton said.

This year, there may not be a full soccer team to play against the alumni because there is a possibility some of the students will be travelling to El Paso for a soccer game for the regional soccer tournament, he said. However, the same number of alumni participants will be playing. There are 20 to 25 students who come to play in the alumni game, and the alumni usually have 11 to 15 participants, he said. The winner is different each year.

"I have had a lot of players I have been coaching, a lot of players that will be coming back that I have coached throughout the years," Winton said.

The soccer team practices three days a week from two to 2 1/2 hours a day. Winton sees improvement with his players, but it has been rough because he lost nine team members due to graduation last year and injuries. There have been conflicts between students on the team with school. A lot of students miss practice to study, and he is very lenient to work around students and their classes.

"Tech is more demanding academically," Winton said. "A lot of the players have been out of town with school conferences, and there have been injuries."

The injuries occurred over the summer when some players pulled muscles and knee strains. This is a core group that is working together to get more positive results, to win and tie against some of their biggest competitors, he said.

With a lot of new players on the team, it's taking some time to adjust, but the team is coming together at the right time, Winton said. The players are gaining each other's trust, and that shows on the field by their competitiveness, he said. Some of the challenges the soccer team faces is playing against large schools, since Tech is small with 20 to 25 players.

Tech gets 25 players that come out for the team and that's what we work with for the whole year, Winton said. The larger schools have 100 to 150 that try out each year, and 25 players are chosen that are best fit.

"I am looking forward to seeing old players, and hope for a competitive but fun game," Winton said.