Eagerly awaiting the USA Curling College Championship from March 11-13 in Chaska, Minnesota, coordinated by the US Curling Association, the RPI Curling team is in good standing going into their final regular bonspiel of the season this weekend. Currently ranked first out of 30 teams in merit point standings, the team has 63 points.
“Curling was one of those things I saw on TV,” said public relations head senior Dana Stevens. “I didn’t think it would be something I’d participate in. I then came to RPI and found out that curling was a sport I could try. It is something unique that I convinced my friends to come try with me my freshman year.
“Last semester I had a great time at the RIT Bonspiel. On Saturday’s game day we decided to dress up in outfits inspired by the Norwegian Olympic team, Team Ulsrud. We made our own pants to look like the Norwegian flag, and all wore Norwegian flag t-shirts. In addition, Anthony Naslas, who was skipping that team, called shots in Norwegian …we won the Spirit of Curling award for the bonspiel.
“The biggest challenge I have is throwing takeouts. There are three types of shots in curling. They are guards, draws, and takeouts. Guards sit in front of the house and block shots in the house. Draws sit in the house and are used for scoring. Takeouts are used to hit rocks out of the house. The two things that determine whether a shot is good is the weight and the line. The weight is how fast the rock is thrown down the ice, and the line is the angle it is thrown down the ice. To hit a takeout you need the perfect balance of weight and line so the rock hits correctly.”
So far this semester, the curlers have attended three bonspiels, beginning with the College Crash Spiel in Belfast, Maine, from January 23 to 24. The following Friday, two RPI teams journeyed to Bridgeport Connecticut, for the three-day Yale Super Spiel, where team RPI 1 won three or four bonspiels to place second. On Saturday, the team competed at the Bowdoin One Day Spiel in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They were defeated by Yale in their first bonspiel, won against Bowdoin in the second, and lost to Boston University in the last to finish 1-2.
“I think the social aspect of curling is what makes it so appealing to me,” said senior Kirsten Cardinal. “You really get to know the people on your team, and there’s always a lot of joking around and having fun on the ice. The social aspect is just as important as the athletic aspect, because effective communication can either make or break a shot.”
This weekend, teammates senior Alex Kelleher, junior Anthony Naslas, junior Garrison Johnston, and senior Dana Stevens will travel to Utica, New York for the Utica College Bonspiel from Friday through Sunday. By Friday, the nationals team will be fully selected, and they will be competing together at Utica before heading to the national championship. Senior Chris Celi has been chosen to skip for nationals.
“I enjoy the mental competition,” said Celi. “They call the sport chess on ice but I feel there is more to it. You have the strategy of selecting which shot to throw then the execution of actually throwing it … The sport is both social and athletic for me. It started as social going to practices with my friends but suddenly became very competitive as I realized that we were actually good at it.
“My favorite bonspiel was our own. I skipped the team that won the event which was exciting but how we did it was even more so. We were down by quite a bit but managed to come back and force skips rocks, where both skips throw only one rock [and] whichever is closest wins. The entire final game down to that one rock. The other team’s skip has been curling for 15 years … but we managed to beat him down to a single rock and win the tournament.”
All Rensselaer students are welcome to come out to open house curling nights hosted by the team. They practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 pm–midnight.