Five members of the Bowdoin curling team will travel to compete at the 2018 College National Curling Championship in Eau Claire, Wisconsin next week. Having ended the season ranked fourth in the nation, the team hopes to do well enough in the starting pool to advance to the championship bracket.
In order to advance in the tournament, the team needs to finish in one of the top two spots out of the four teams in their round robin pool. The teams are Bowdoin, St. Norbert College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and University of Oklahoma. The top two of each of the four brackets then advance to the championship bracket.
“Top six is the goal. We’ve done it before and I don’t see why we can’t do it again. This year, the team that we’re taking is a lot stronger than any team we’ve taken before, so I’m fairly optimistic,” said captain Tom Ezquerro ’18.
This is the team’s third consecutive and fourth overall time competing at nationals since it was established seven years ago.
“Two seniors are going, so I hope they will end their season in a way that they’re proud of and in a greater way, that the rest of us end our season in a way that we’re proud of,” Kylie Best ’19 said.
While the team has never won the tournament, captain Cole Hamel ’18 says the growth of the team—it has gone from five to six players in 2015 to over 20 this season—has contributed to the team’s success. Since the team gets one point for playing in a game and another for winning, their overall ranking goes up depending on how many teams they send to a tournament.
Matt Swiatek ’20 believes that a point system that rewards participation has helped make the team more inclusive.
“Even people who haven’t been on the team for very long we’ll still send to competitions because we know they can get points even if they don’t play at the highest level. They’ll get points simply for competing,” said Swiatek.
However, Ezquerro notes that curling on the college level has become more competitive recently, making Bowdoin’s success at tournaments more important in getting a bid to nationals.
“The other side of it is [that] curling at the collegiate level has become more popular, so we’re vying for the same amount of points with more teams, so the point qualification is a little bit more challenging this year. There’s anticipation for a lot more teams to join next year as well,” said Ezquerro.
According to Best, the team’s fourth-place ranking is not just a product of the team’s growth, but also due to their increased competitiveness.
“We definitely made a concerted effort to be more competitive this season and I think that shows in our ranking,” she said. “This is the highest we’ve finished since 2010. So I do think that we have more of a drive to be competitive and I think that has shown itself in how our season worked out.”
Since most members of the team never curled before joining, practice starts at the most basic level. While the team has a liason at the Belfast Curling Club in Belfast, Maine who provides advice and support, it has no coach. New members learn first at the Watson arena–where the ice is pebbled to make it suitable for curling– before heading over to the Belfast Curling Club for Sunday practices.
“It’s basically just getting people familiar with the ice, familiar with the weird movements and weird body positions that go into curling, making sure they get as much practice as possible,” said Hamel.
Outreach for the team has continued into the second semester, with the curling team holding a “Learn to Curl” event this past weekend. The event encouraged Bowdoin students and members of the community to get acquainted with the sport.
“It was for people who had never curled before, so they could come and just see what curling is all about. It was very exciting.” said Hamel.
According to Ezquerro, 52 people, including students, professors and their families, and other staff members showed up to the event.
The team has also been enjoying other forms of publicity from the Bowdoin Magazine to an Instagram post showing President Clayton Rose curling with the team.
“My hopes from that are that we get more people interested,” Best said. “In terms of recruiting, it would make me so happy if somebody said “I came to Bowdoin because I wanted to curl.’”