Nick McCrea | BDN
Bowdoin College provides a rock during the yearly college curling championship in Belfast on Jan. 21, 2018. The event attracted 11 teams from throughout New England, some of whom traveled six hours to get there.
Nick McCrea | BDN
Bowdoin College competes in the college bonspiel at Belfast on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. The tournament attracted 11 college teams from throughout New England.
Nick McCrea | BDN
Kylie Greatest delivers a rock to the Bowdoin College curling group in a bonspiel hosted in Belfast on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. The tournament attracted 11 college teams from throughout New England.
Nick McCrea | BDN
Curlers watch a game from the screening region during an yearly college curling championship in Belfast on Jan. 21, 2018. The event attracted 11 teams from throughout New England, some of whom traveled six hours to get there.
BELFAST, Maine — To infrequent moment, it had been dead silent on the ice. A rock gliding slowly across the ice emitting a low, rumbling growl. That piece of calm shattered when the curler slipping along behind that rock realized it had been slowing down.
“SWEEEEEEP! YUUUUUUP! HAAAAARD!” The extreme college curler shouted at his broom-toting teammates. They slit the ice, heating up the ice simply ahead of the rock and reducing friction.
His blue rock squeezed through a cluster of tightly packed stones, smashed into an outer yellowish one, knocking it from the ring of concentric circles. His rock came to a rest near the center, making a point for his team.
Dozens of school students representing 11 teams from throughout New England descended on Belfast last weekend to face off at a bonspiel, or even bending tournament. It is an obscure sport across much of the U.S., but brings renewed interest every fourth year when it’s broadcast throughout the world as an Olympic event.
Katie Perry in her third season as a University of Maine curler said she picked up the sport after seeing a booth at a student activities fair and determining it was the most “random” item she can attempt. She did, and she got hooked.
Her choice prompted a great deal of comments from classmates and friends when they learned about her practices.
“Oh, the sport with the rocks and the yelling?” Some said. “Do you do the pushing or even the cleaning?” Others requested.
“I adore being unusual,” Greg Kritzman, among Perry’s teammates, ” said as both ate breakfast in the club. “This was really the big attraction for me”
Curling, in theory, is a simple sport. Two groups of four players take turns slipping about 42-pound polished granite rocks around a 146-foot sheet of ice with the aim of receiving their stones closest to the center of a goal, known as the home. In practice, it’s a intricate contest that has nearly as much in common with chess because it will shuffleboard and bowling.
“Easy to pick up, difficult to grasp,” Perry explained.
Opposing curlers attempt to knock off the other team’s rocks from their home whilst getting their very own into better rankings. At times, they purposely leave their rock brief of their home as a “guard” to make it harder for the opposing team to get their rock where they’d enjoy it. Strategy is crucial, like leaving a rock unturned at the middle of the home is a certain way to ensure it’ll get knocked out by the opposing team and leave them in a better position.
Sweepers carrying brooms follow the rock on its own methodical, curving journey to the home, sweeping frantically ahead of it so as to influence the stone’s speed and direction. To guarantee consistency, a curling rock can only be made from granite cut from two quarries on the planet — only on a specific Soviet island, another in Wales.
The skip, the group’s captain stands at the home, pointing out in which their team’s rocks should come to a stop and establishing a target stage that marks how far the rock should curl. The skip cries in the sweepers whenever they need to begin or stop with their brooms. Some skips are more outspoken than others. More.
Belfast is also home to Maine’s sole dedicated curling facility, therefore many Maine college teams traveling regularly to Belfast for practices. There are other places to curling bands in Maine, but they typically utilize segments of ice on public skating rinks.
The college curling applications on screen in Belfast over the weekend varied dramatically in the size of their applications and their expertise levels.
Unity College, a tiny environmentally focused school of about 700 students based about half an hour from Belfast, was just 3 members strong at this year’s championship and had to borrow a player from a different school to compete. They’re in the midst of a rebuilding year after the club expired four years ago, when its leader graduated.
Doug Cooper, a 20-year-old analyzing wildlife maintenance and education, chose to start the club up again and is hoping to utilize the popularity of the Olympics to draw fresh attention and more members.
Harvard, Bowdoin College of Brunswick, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Rochester Institute of Technology also joined the bonspiel. Some of the larger clubs were able to send two groups. Some groups had complete uniforms, the others wore their very own mismatched gear ranging from athletic wear to T-shirts and pajama trousers.
A group of experienced curlers largely composed of graduate students from Yale University took home top honors in this year’s bonspiel, winning every game that they played along with edging a Bowdoin College team which also entered that game undefeated.
Yale’s program started in 2013 after a grad student from the Midwest chose to start a club up because she missed the sport. Today, the program includes about 20 members who compete in tournaments around New England.
Fabian Schrey, a student from Germany along with the club president, said over half of the group is composed of international students who’ve had greater exposure to curling in the past. Like other clubs, they’re attempting to bolster interest around the Olympic Games.
The Yale team drove six hours Saturday morning to achieve Belfast, played with three matches, competed back on Sunday, and spent six hours residence.
“It’s a big commitment, and we would not do this if we didn’t love this sport,” Schrey explained.
Practice Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.
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