Ephs curl their way to Wisconsin

This past weekend, eight members of the Williams College Curling Club traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of the nation’s few curling hotbeds, to compete in the 1998 College Curling USA National Tournament.

Curling, something like a combination of bocci and shuffleboard on ice, is gaining recognition now that it is an official Olympic sport. The object of the game is to slide squat, cylindrical, 42-pound “stones” as close as possible to the “button,” or target.

Each team has eight chances per “end” (inning) to get as many stones as possible to the button, and is allowed to knock out the other team’s stones in attempt to reach it.

Teams consist of four players each: a lead, a second, a vice-skip, and a skip. Each curler delivers two stones, while two other curlers sweep the ice. Sweeping smoothes the ice and melts the surface layer slightly so the stone travels further and straighter. The skip, who is the strategist for the team, calls the shots, but all four players are responsible for determining the trajectory of each stone.

After eight stones have been thrown by each team, the end is scored. The team closest to the button scores one point for each stone closer to the button than the other team’s closest stone. An entire game consists of eight or ten ends.

At the National Curling Tournament, two teams from Williams competed against 16 other teams from Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Rhode Island. Williams’ men’s team was skipped by Tristan Smith ‘98, with vice-skip Josh Shapiro ‘98. Seth Battis ‘98 was second and Rob Wittenmyer ‘98 was the lead. Williams’ women’s team was skipped by Kate Wearn ‘98. Meghan Byrne ‘98 played vice-skip, Kyra Williams ‘98 curled second and Caren Mintz ‘01, a first-year player, curled lead.

The competition was organized as a round-robin, with the 18 teams divided into four pools. Results within the pools decided which divisions the teams played in. Each of the divisions then proceeded with a single elimination tournament.

In the third division, Smith’s team (2-2 in the pool) won 6-5 against Marquette University in the semi-finals. In the finals, Williams played a tough game against the University of Minnesota at Morris. It was tied in the seventh end, but then UM-Morris made a crucial last shot to beat Williams 7-6. In the fourth division, Wearn’s team, 1-3 in the pool, went on to win their semi-final game 7-4 against Minot State University, in a game decided by the last shot. In the final, the Williams women, narrowly missing their last shot, lost a nail-biter 6-4 to Michigan Tech.

Overall, the weekend was a success. The teams had a very enjoyable time: playing against students from the few other collegiate curling programs in the United States was like talking to a fellow American in a foreign country. For Smith, the national tournament was a momentous end to four years of curling at Williams. Having curled in high school in Canada, he began the Williams Curling Club his first year at Williams. Since its beginning, the club has participated in several competitions including the New England Championships against Brown University (the only other New England school with a curling club) and the Northeast Regional Olympic Playdowns, and looks forward to further competition.