Nation’s best women’s curling teams compete in Grafton
Grafton club remains a
destination for USA’s top curlers
GRAFTON – With little fanfare, nine of the top women’s curling teams from across the United States arrived in Grafton to secure a spot in the 2014 USA Curling Women’s National Championships. Unlike club championships, teams competing in the National Championships are often comprised of curlers from a variety of states and clubs.
In addition to the competitors and their coaches, friends and family, over one ton of curling rocks also made their way to Grafton, shipped from the USA Curling headquarters in Stephens Point, Wis.
Sue Tharalson of the Grafton Curling Club served as chair of this Women’s Challenge Round event. Officials from the U.S. Curling Association were also on hand to take care of the ice, to apply and interpret the rules and to determine scoring when rocks from both teams end up visually equidistant from the center of the house.
Iceman Rudi Bloomquist, from Devils Lake, N.D., is one of the few curling ice experts who travels the U.S. to supervise ice operations at competitions. He also served as iceman at the Junior World Championships in Sweden last year. Greg Volk, the head official for the event, is also from Devils Lake.
Grafton curler Ben Tucker was in charge of the timekeepers at the event. “My biggest job is to keep other people from bothering my timekeepers,” said Tucker. One of the most important rules of the curling game is that each team has 73 minutes to play out 10 ends of the game. They also get a five-minute break at the end of five ends of curling. “It is much like running a chess clock,” says Tucker. “Each team gets 60 seconds off the clock to prepare for the next end.” Time can become an issue, for instance, if a team takes too long making decisions about individual shots throughout the 10 end game.
Tucker, a well-known competitive curler in his own right, said the field competing in Grafton includes some of the very best women curlers active in the sport today. “It’s a very talented field, but it takes practice and many of these teams haven’t had much of a chance to play together,” said Tucker. “After this event, they will have until the U.S. National Championships in March to get more practice curling together. It is a huge time and money commitment to get to bonspiel events.”
According to Tucker, one of the teams to watch is the Sarah Anderson team who curl out of Broomall, Pa. – a suburb of Philadelphia. “Sarah’s team won the Junior Olympic trials held here in Grafton in 2011 and they went to Europe in 2012 for the Youth Olympics competition,” said Tucker. “They went undefeated in the round robin, and then lost their first game to the last seed in the championship round, taking fifth place. I think they have a minimum of 24 years left of curling and I predict they will play in at least two Olympic Games in their lifetime.”
The Anderson team competing in Grafton included her twin sister Taylor, and her other sisters, Emily and Courtenay. Her mom and dad, Wayne and Arlene, accompanied them, providing moral support and prepping the team’s fifth end break performance food. “They like to have a variety of fruit, string cheese, and fluid, mainly water and a performance drink, said Arlene. After the game, their favorite is chocolate milk.”
To those who have not tried curling, the sport may not seem as physical as most, but that assumption would be incorrect. Curling is now considered a high performance sport. For instance, in a two and one half hour game, each curler will have traveled a little under two miles back and forth over the sheet of ice. They each will have delivered 42 pound rocks 20 times the 150 ft. length of the ice. Add to that the precarious art of sweeping, which involves applying pressure with a quick back and forth motion while following the rock to its destination. It is estimated that a curler expends about 500 calories in one game.
The Anderson team attributes their curling interest to their Dad, Wayne, who started the junior curling program at the club in Philadelphia. He feels strongly about getting youth involved in the sport. “Regardless of the level you want to play at, curling is a social sport and in order to build the sport, kids need to get to curling bonspiels in order to find the joy in the sport,” said Anderson.
This is the second time the Anderson team has curled at the Grafton club. “The food is always really good, the viewing area is very nice, and the ice is quick with a great curl,” said Sarah.
This year’s event included curlers traveling from as far away as Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. The North Dakota team included curlers from Fargo and Grand Forks. This team has already won the right to represent ND at the National Junior Curling Competition in Seattle at the end of this month.
For the curlers from California, there is a special hurdle to overcome. As their coach Barry Ivy indicated, the California curlers primarily curl in arenas, which throw up several hurdles to having a good curling experience. “We have to put the stones in the freezer overnight,” said Ivy. “You really have to work hard to build enthusiasm for the sport when you have to curl in an arena primarily devoted to other ice sports.”
Ivy considers himself to be the “pied piper” of curling in California and hopes to soon have a dedicated curling facility in San Francisco.
As the host of three USA Curling sanctioned competitive events in the last three years, Grafton’s Curling Club can boast about the quality of its ice, facility, and the curling club’s members and fans that make the visitors feel like they are at home. But, the local club has a history steeped in tradition and well-known across the country and into Canada.
Over the years, Grafton’s Curling Club has served as host to several national curling championships, with one of the biggest being the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Championships in 1992. During the 2004 Men’s N.D. State Curling Championship, it even played host to Sports Illustrated reporters covering sports in each state during the magazine’s “Sports in America 50 States, 50 Weeks” 50th anniversary year. A celebration of sports in all of the 50 states, their editors decided to feature curling as North Dakota’s sport.
At the end of the competition, Sarah Anderson’s team, along with five other teams from the Grafton event, would advance to the U.S. Women’s National Championships. Sarah and Taylor Anderson will also compete with two curlers from Wisconsin at the Junior Nationals in Seattle. The California curlers will have to wait for another year to get a shot at a national competition. Maybe they will have a local curling club to practice in soon.