‘Curling can get you hooked’
WILLMAR — Who are these people?
These curlers from the Northeast, the Midwest, the West Coast and the 50th state, or is it the 49th?
We know they are here all week for the 2013 USA Curling Mixed National Championship.
Except for the three midwest rinks — North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin — teams flew in to Minneapolis on Friday or early Saturday morning.
The most youthful foursome is Team Flippo that qualified out of the Alaska region. Ryan Flippo, the skip, a kind of captain and clean-up hitter, is the senior member of the four-person team. He’s only 20. His father Dave, from Anchorage, is here as the coach.
Ryan Flippo and Quinn Evenson, 17, are out of the Fairbanks Curling Club. Their female counterparts Coriana Tomlinson, 18, and Shelby Sweet, also 18, are out of the Seattle Curling Club.
They became friends at junior national tournaments. And no, to represent a state not all team members must reside there but at least two must.
Despite their youth, the cumulative curling experience adds up to 30 years. Sponsorships and their home-town clubs help with the expenses of attending a national event.
The Arizona rink, or team, practices and competes on the NHL Coyotes home ice, I was told by skip Fred Maxie.
“We have about 100 members,” said the Calgary transplant. “There’s a fall league and then a winter league which is larger with the snow birds in town starting in January.
The quartet includes Carol Ann Naso who has won a bronze medal at the national level. Elle (the e is silent) LeBeau is out of the Granite City Club in Seattle. Andrea (Ond-ray) Callegari is a native of Italy.
Unsolicited, Maxie added that the city and Willmar Curling Club “Have done a fantastic job. The (arena) is really impressive and the ice is fast.”
The New Jersey team is led by Dennis Mellerup of Hoboken. This is his third mixed national.
Team members come from the New York City area. Nina Reiniger described her occupation as “scientist,” but currently a stay-at-home mom with a three-year old.
She grew up in British Columbia and got hooked on curling early in her teen years. She competed in the 2004 Women’s World Games and in the 2009 USA Olympic Trials. It takes 90 minutes from her home in Manhattan to where she curls.
Frederick Dubberley, who prefers his middle name Aaron, is a patent attorney living in Rahway, N.J. He took up curling in 2002.
Like Nina and lead Patricia Heffner this is his first mixed national.
Heffner started curling 20 years ago but estimates she was away from competitive events about 11 years “to raise our boys.”
She’s been in many local bonspiels but this is her first national event.
“This sport is very addictive,” said Patricia. “You can catch on to the game enough to enjoy in no time, but once you’re hooked it will take years to master.”
Skip Mellerup, 50, competed in the Senior Nationals in January and will compete at the Senior World’s for Team USA in April in New Brunswick.
“I’ve used up all four weeks of my vacation,” he said. He works for a bank in the Bronx in technology support.
From nearby, Team Smith North Dakota has sent a quartet with family bonds. Kelby Smith, the skip, and his son are out of the Minot Curling Club. Ann and Beth Podell are students and sisters belonging to the Fargo Moorhead Curling Club.
Round-robin draws continue through Thursday followed by semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday and the finals at 1 p.m. Saturday.