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ISSUE 115 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/12/2002

Curlers ‘rock’ solid at tourney

By Stefanie Graen
Staff Writer

Friday, April 12, 2002

Many people consider kilts to be Scotland’s greatest contribution to the world. These people have obviously not heard of curling, a sport played on pebbled ice with 30-40 pound rocks. It has elements of bocce ball and shuffleboard, the finesse of golf, and the social characteristics of bowling. Curling made its North American debut in Canada, but is starting to gain ground in the United States.

Curling is supported by St. Olaf, but is not an official sport. Most people don’t even know that it exists, but it is open to everyone, men and women. The season lasts from mid-November to late February, and every week during their season the team travels to St. Paul to practice.

Unusual circumstances are characteristic of curling tournaments. There are four tournaments, called bonspiels, that the team participates in each season, including one sponsored by Dr. McGillicuddy’s that was held in a 4-H barn.

"We just try to have fun with it," said team member Dave Beck ‘02. "The sport is hilarious and every one that plays enjoys it – I’ve never met anyone that’s curled for the first time and said, ‘I don’t really want to do this anymore.’"

Part of the fun stems from traveling to exotic Midwestern locations. Nationals were held the weekend before spring break, and two teams from St. Olaf traveled to Madison, Wis. to participate.

The tournament was opened with a bagpipe player from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who played the National Anthem. There were four divisions, and St. Olaf participated in the second and fourth. Each team competed with all the other teams in their division, similar to a track meet. The second division team lost every game by only a point or two, but the team in the fourth division won every game and became the top-ranked team in the nation in its division.

"We all knew that it was either sweep or be swept, so we had to step our performance up," Brandon Henry ’02, a member of the national champion team, said. "It was nationals for godsake."

Other teams at the tournament included most of the Wisconsin state schools, Harvard, and a team from Transylvania University in Kentucky that had never curled before, but decided to travel to the tournament for a spring break adventure. MIT was also there, and Beck claims that their curling procedure was quite a bit different from St. Olaf’s: "MIT would strategize. They would figure out angles, the weight of the rock, the way the ice melted, and then do physics calculations. It was out of control. They lost all the time."

Each team in curling consists of four players, who push the rocks towards the house, or bullseye. The rocks must be maneuvered around the other players’ rocks which are already on the ice. The player must spin the rock as it is pushed in order for it to avoid the others. It is possible for sixteen rocks to be on the ice at one time, and brooms are used to melt the pebbles on the ice if the rock needs to go faster.

Anyone interested in being a part of the curling team can contact captain Jeff "Skippy" Lamont ‘03. The team is also looking for a cheerleading squad.

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