Without the fanfare of other athletic organizations on campus, the curling team has quietly grown into one of the College’s most successful club sports programs. On March 10, the team earned an eighth-place overall finish at the USA College Curling Championship held at Broomstones Curling Club in Wayland, Mass.
The tournament featured 16 teams from schools of all different sizes from across the country. Bowdoin was placed in a pool with teams from MIT, Colgate University and the eventual national champion North Dakota State University. After a challenging round of pool play, the Polar Bears handily beat University of Oklahoma 8-2 to advance to the semifinals of the consolation bracket.
“It was very much a national tournament feel,” said captain Zach LeBlanc ’20. “Everyone there wanted to do well. We were pretty serious about meeting and stretching before games to get ready for whatever was ahead.”
However, this competitive attitude was balanced with the sportsmanship and camaraderie associated with curling.
“[The atmosphere] was pretty friendly. After the games, everyone would get together and talk with teams they hadn’t gotten to meet before,” said LeBlanc. “We got dinner with [the team representing] the University of Oklahoma one day, who is becoming one of our distant friend teams.”
Part of curling’s camaraderie can be attributed to the tradition of broomstacking. Broomstacking refers to the custom that after every game, no matter the outcome, the two competing teams come together to have a meal.
“Especially because they’re small teams—you only have four people on the ice at any given point—then suddenly you get to make friends and meet some really interesting people,” said Kylie Best ’19.
This welcoming atmosphere isn’t just perpetuated by the teams themselves but also supported by the tournament organizers.
“They have an award every year called the ‘Spirit of Curling’ award. It embodies team values like sportsmanship and camaraderie,” said LeBlanc. “That’s what curling is: being respectful. It’s pretty friendly.”
LeBlanc and Best articulated that the Bowdoin team’s commitment to inclusivity and fostering a sense of community within the team is what differentiates Bowdoin from other schools—and also contributes to its success.
“[Our success] is a factor of our team getting bigger and us getting more practice time,” said LeBlanc. “We’ve been committing more time to team practices on the weekends.”
“We made a concerted effort to make sure the entire team was included … that’s what makes us different,” added Best. “We are really trying to integrate newer folks. We want them to have fun and feel the culture of the sport and not feel like the new kid that got brought along.”
Not only does this inclusivity foster a healthy team atmosphere, it also promotes team depth and helps grow the program’s skills.
“This year was probably our strongest national showing that we’ve had in my four years of Bowdoin, just based on the fact that we’ve all played together for so long,” said Best. “I anticipate that next year will be an even stronger showing. That is a testament to everyone on the team.”
In Best’s mind, the team’s success has been dictated by more than just the group of five athletes who attended the national tournament.
“I hesitate to say that the nationals team [won us this tournament] because it was not just the nationals team that took us there,” said Best. “Rather, it was every single person that came to practice and everyone that came to a bonspiel and added to those collective team points.”