The curling team ended its regular season in Utica last weekend, finishing third out of 24 competitors. Now, the top five members will continue to the national competition in Wayland, Massachusetts over spring break, where the team is seeded seventh. The team has doubled in size since last year, contributing to its successful season.
After the U.S. men’s curling team won gold in the 2018 Olympics, the sport became more appealing to new players, and Bowdoin’s own team has doubled in size since last year. This uptick in members has been seen in both teams and clubs across the curling community this year.
“We have had an upward growth which has been amazing,” said captain Kylie Best ’19. “All of our team, except for myself, did not curl before college, so for us to be so successful with a bunch of relatively inexperienced people is fantastic.”
At the Student Activities Fair last fall, the team received over 75 sign-ups. Out of the 75, over 20 students became permanent members. Uniquely, the team consists of social members who go out on the ice to have fun and those who want to become more competitive at the sport and frequently participate in the tournaments.
“At the beginning of the season, we ask the entire group who wants to be considered for the [national competition],” said Best. “Some are only interested in the social aspect, which is totally fine. This way, those who are more interested in being more competitive can express it early on.”
Looking toward the national competition, the team expects to hold its own against northeastern competitors. Teams from the Midwest tend to be stiffer competition as they have smaller teams that have been curling longer.
“The hope is to win,” said captain Zack Leblanc ’20. “Last year, I think we had a little bit of a disappointing finish; we finished 10th or 11th. This year, [we’re ranked] seventh, [and] I think we can do a little bit better just playing as well as we can.”
In addition to the increase in new members, the team also added a volunteer advisor, Jonathan St. Mary ’67. He is the first community member to enter a mentorship role for the team. With many years of curling experience, St. Mary has competed in the Francis Dykes Memorial Bonspiel and Men’s Grand Nationals.
“He had some really good pointers about strategy, which has been something that has hurt us in the past,” Best said. “We just don’t know a lot about strategy, and it’s very difficult.”
St. Mary was especially influential in teaching the influx of first years curling technique. His expert advice is helpful for newcomers who have no prior experience with the sport.
“It’s been really helpful to have someone who knows what they are talking about give some pointers,” Best said, “rather than have people who haven’t been curling very long teaching people who haven’t been curling at all.”
This weekend, the team will host a learn to curl event at Flight Deck Brewing Company. No experience is necessary, and members of the team will be demonstrating the sport and putting on a mini bonspiel for the community.
“There are actually some people in Brunswick [who] are looking to bring a new sort of ice facility to the area that would be both a hockey rink and a curling facility,” Leblanc said. “So they’re putting us on to demonstrate community interest.”
The team will teach curling from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The event is free and open to the public.