There aren’t a lot of stats in curling, but White Bear Lake’s first-year club team has one the coaches found very gratifying — 24-for-24.
As in, 24 kids signed up, and all 24 were still there at the end, when the Bears concluded the inaugural season at an all-metro meet Saturday and Sunday.
“Curling is awesome,” was coach Tony Walfoort’s cheerful explanation for that.
This sport with four-person teams guiding a 40-pound “stone” along the ice to a target, which in their case is 114 feet away — it dates to 16th-century Scotland and filtered down to the “states” from Canada — seems to have quickly won over these two dozen teens despite almost all being novices.
“We had two individuals who had ever picked up a curling broom before December,” said Walfoort.
The “novelty” of curling was the initial attraction, the coach figured. It also helps that the sport got a general boost in popularity when the USA men were surprise gold medalists at last year’s Olympics. And it’s a way to earn a school letter without having to outrun people or knock them over.
Kids who came on board started recruiting each other, too. Most were not involved in another sport.
“Some of my friends were doing it, and I was free on Wednesday’s, so why not,” said Gracie Fink, who’s involved in theatre and was previously in dance. “I didn’t really know much about curling. I had watched it during the Olympics, but that’s about it.”
The erstwhile non-athlete got hooked after joining with three classmates from the North Campus; they teamed up and call themselves The Curling Gals.
“Curling is so much fun because it’s intricate enough to be challenging, but still beginner-friendly, so my friends and I, who are new to curling, can still compete in a tournament even though we only started practice a couple months ago.”
With 15 boys and nine girls, White Bear Lake had largest roster of the six teams in last weekend’s tournament.
“I think part of the draw is that everyone plays an essential role, and the game moves pretty quick,” said Walfoort, who took up the sport with some high school buddies a few years ago. With just 30 to 60 seconds between throws, he elaborated, the sweepers get little rest, and throwers and skips have to be thinking about the next shot.
Walfoort, who teaches 9th- and 10th-grade Social Studies, is assisted by Ben Kirkham and John Weisbrod, both Language Arts teachers, and Greg Jamieson, one of the parents who’s an experienced curler.
The club started practices and games in January on Wednesdays after school in Blaine. They were featured in a segment on Prepspotlight.TV in January. Jerseys were created by UNRL, the St. Paul apparel firm founded by Bear alum Michael Jordan, for those who wanted to buy them. Parents pitched in for transportation.
White Bear Lake entered four teams in the All Metro High School Bonspiel (that’s the curling term for tournament) held at Four Seasons Curling Club in Blaine on Saturday and Sunday. The Bear teams placed second and fifth in Pool A, and second and fourth in Pool B. Other participants were Lakeville (three teams), Chaska, Blaine, Champlin Park, and Spring Lake Park.
Woolfort praised the inaugural team for having “greatly exceeded expectations” with their technique and the quality of their shots.
The Bear teams were: Aaren Schmid (lead), Ryan Jamieson (2nd/3rd) and Johnathan Jamieson (skip, a Concordia Academy student); Lauren Schmid (skip), Cora Donoghue (3rd), Julia Lamwers (2nd) and Grace Fink (lead); David Krzoska (skip), Kirby Masso (3rd), Liam Konetchy (2nd) and Zander Farrell (lead); and Collin Downey (skip), Paul Johnson (3rd), Nathan Hupert (2nd) and Jake Burket (lead). In addition, Kailey Halama participated with two Spring Lake Park students.