J. T. Payne in competition at the Spec Mix 500 Bricklayers Championship in Las Vegas, NV. Submitted photo
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J. T. Payne competes in International Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 Championship in Las Vegas

by Elane Moonier ~ Features Editor

Precision skill and speed in laying bricks brought J. T. Payne all the way to Las Vegas, NV, on Feb. 5, to compete in the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 Championship, an international event to determine the world’s fastest bricklayer.

The Jackson man is a project foreman for Foeste Masonry of Cape Girardeau, where he has been refining the art of bricklaying for the past seven years.

J. T. said about three years ago he learned about the competitive event on social media and was definitely interested. He talked about it with his uncle Mark Foeste, who was already a champion bricklayer and named ‘Fastest Trowel on the Block’ in 1994 and 1996.

The men were fired up about the Spec Mix 500 and took a trip to St. Louis to see the competition there, then later went to Las Vegas to watch the international event at the World of Concrete Trade Show.

With his mind made up to compete, J. T. set about serious practice, along with his brother, Jakob, who completes the two-man team. Mark agreed to serve as coach for the training.

Even though J. T. laid brick or rock almost every working day in his job, practice sessions became a weekly event, and often on weekends leading up to the competition.

Competitors in the Spec Mix Bricklayers 500 are faced with the task of building a  26-foot, 80 brick long wall, double-sided, in a one-hour time period. The winner is whoever gets the most bricks laid within the quality guidelines of the program. Each wall is judged by a panel of 30 judges and points (number of bricks) deducted for infractions or imperfections.

J. T. and Jakob worked diligently together to keep their rhythm smooth and flowing. Jakob, as tender, kept the bricks stacked and the mortor the perfect consistency, and J. T. mortared and placed each brick as rapidly as possible.

Their efforts paid off in September of last year when they took first place in regional competition in St. Louis. J. T. laid 692 bricks in this race, beating out the nearest competitor by more than 100 bricks. This win allowed them to move on to the  international competition in Las Vegas. This is the second year they have competed in both regional and international.

Teams from Australia, Canada and London, England were among the 26 in competition.  J. T. said the race was really tight from the start. The first place winner, Fred Campbell of Greenville, TN, had 756 bricks in place. J. T. and Jakob took ninth place. He laid 774 bricks, but some brick points were deducted for a couple of tipped bricks that got out of line.

The men said they were a bit disappointed, but were glad they got to compete and plan to come on strong next year. They were recently featured in a cover story by the St. Louis Post Dispatch the last week in January, just before their competition in Las Vegas.

J. T. and Jakob come from a long family line of bricklayers. Their grandparents, Kenny and Judy Foeste started Foeste Masonry  in 1973. Kenny was inducted into the Masonry Hall of Fame last year at the World of Concrete Show in Las Vegas.

J. T. And his wife, Whitney, reside in Jackson. They have three boys, Camden, age seven, Easton, age four, and Gatlin, age one.

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