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Willmar notebook: U.S. Curling puts Willmar at center ice

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Civic Center manager Kevin Madsen examines the safety windows just installed in the new second-floor extension to the viewing area at the south end of the Blue Line Center.

Two years ago, the U.S. Curling Mixed National Championship took place in Midland, Mich. (home of Dow Chemical) and a year ago next week in Portage, Wis., a few miles downriver of the Wisconsin Dells.

This year, if you haven’t heard, the three-day tournament will be held at the Civic Center, home base for the ever popular Sonshine Christian music festival in July.

Is Willmar on the map, or what?

This is a big deal for the town and especially the Willmar Curling Club, which is responsible for landing the tournament. The “Rocks are Roarin,’ ’’ is the catch-phrase referring to the 42-pound stone.

The action runs Saturday to Saturday (starting March 16) with a processional from the Cardinal Arena through the lobby connecting the two ice sheets and into the Blue Line Arena.

The BLC is being transformed for the event.

There will be a carpeted area and bleachers for spectators on the ice. The competitive ice sheets will be repainted in bright colors and the arena decorated.

Ten four-person teams (two men, two women) representing regions from Alaska to New York to California will be on their way here next week and staying at the Holiday Inn.

Civic Center manager Kevin Madsen showed me around on Tuesday. Maintenance lieutenants Keith Hendrickson and Jeremy Marcus worked on a high-lift installing brackets they’d made to hold the security-type cameras that will focus on each target area, or home, where the rocks come to a clicking rest.

Madsen explained that the cameras will feed monitors in the 65-foot-wide second-floor viewing area at the south end of the arena. Here will sit four timer/judges scoring the match. Each team is meticulously timed with a maximum allowance of 73 minutes to make its deliveries (There’s a lot of tactics involved in this old Scottish contest and, like baseball, you can’t have players holding endless meetings at the mound.)

The enclosed balcony has been extended out four-feet so that it hovers nearly to the dasher boards. Just installed — hockey-strength 5/8-inch plastic panes, not needed for this competition but fabulously clear and no longer a worry at hockey games should a puck get through the netting.

Madsen did the design, window installation, woodwork and masonry on the 11-concrete pillars that support the extension.   Hendrickson and Marcus are the experts in metal fabrication and machinery. Madsen has been chief at the Civic Center since 1987, when Bill Abel left for the twin arenas in Plymouth. Hendrickson has 13 years in and Marcus seven.

An aside: Back in 1977, voters turned down the idea of an indoor ice arena but it got through the second time after hockey moms and dads and other farsighted folks persisted. The BLC was added late in the century thanks to the tireless work and fundraising efforts of hockey boosters. This week the two buildings will host both a three-day novice, 25-team bonspiel and the KWLM Spring Show. Recently concluded, the Diamond Edge Figure Skating Show, which Madsen believes is among the very best presented in outstate Minnesota. And where would the area be without the popular ag show, Sonshine, travel shows, garage sales and college graduation, let alone hockey and curling.

Madsen estimates spectator capacity for the nationals at about 200. Curling competition is this weekend for Novice and starting March 16 for nationals with free admission thanks to the major sponsor, Snap Fitness.

Classic volleyball

The Willmar Rec women’s volleyball classic on Saturday drew 22 teams competing at three venues.

Here are the top finishers provided by Brad Bonk at the WCER office:

Power I champs — Team Prinsburg, Terrin DeBoer, Monica Ashburn, Lindsey Ashburn, Rachel Halbersma, Emily Minnick; Runner-up, Leapfrogs of Hutchinson, Kelly Beckstrand, Amanda Kaping, Jessica Henke, Crystal Moore,  Alisha Kruger, Angie Dietel, Ann Kosel.

 Power 2 champs —  I’d Hit That of St. Cloud, captained by Nicki Trutwin; Runner-up, Dripps from Morris, captained by Jackie Dripps.

On the fly

n Breakdown Sports online March Madness 56-page issue is now available with sections on rankings, surprise teams and players and “Best venues.” Ranking No. 1 — Willmar, “well-designed, great layout” that doesn’t get as much notice as deserved “because of its location.” The new Marshall gym is No. 3 and Montevideo, citing its unique end-zone press box, comes in at No. 5.

n No formal announcement yet, but the Willmar Broncos are scheduled to open their amateur football season on April 27; three of their four home games will be played on the field in New London. The team has over 40 on the roster practicing Sunday evenings at the city auditorium.

n Wendell Halvorson of Spicer passed away Feb. 4 at age 76.He was a member of the Willmar High School Class of ’54, one of the great athletic classes in Cardinal history. I’m informed Wendell was the quarterback on the 1953 Willmar Cardinal football team coached by Bill Hansen that ended up 6-1-1. Teammates included tackle Norm Sixta of Pennock who went on to start for the Minnesota Gophers.

n Junior Alissa Tinklenberg of Willmar is the February Female Student-Athlete of the Month at Gustavus Adolphus. She led the women’s swimming & diving team to its fourth straight MIAC title, winning three individual events and contributing to three first-place relays to earn 2013 MIAC Women’s Swimmer-of-the-Year.  Tinklenberg competes next at the Division III meet March 20-23 at Shenandoah, Texas.  She ranks third in the 200 backstroke, 14th in the 100 back, and 23rd in the 500 freestyle (5:00.90).

n Concordia Cobber basketball player Alexandra Lippert contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds but the Moorhead college bowed to UW-Stevens Point 72-64 in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs on Friday in Indianola, Iowa. The team finished 21-7.

n At the NCAA West Regional wrestling tournament in Minneapolis, St. John’s senior Mitch Hagen (Sunburg, KMS) went 3-0 to win the 184-pound division and advance a second time to the nationals March 15-16 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Cobbers’ freshman Chase Austvold (New London-Spicer) went 4-2 and placed fifth as Concordia placed runner-up to Augsburg among 12 teams.

n Ridgewater’s Terrance Lockett led the MCAC South with 2.4 steals per game and Beau Herrig ranked second in rebounds (9.2). Zak Pendleton ranked top 10 in both 3-point percentage (.368) and free throws (.810).

n In MCAC women’s, Jessica Kalenberg finishes seventh in 3-point shots (.305), Courtney Kramer fourth in field-goal percentage (.462), Raeann Sorenson third in free-throws (.786) while Lynsey Runke finishes No. 1 in assists (4.1).  

n Josh Oestreich, 2010 WHS grad, is playing for the No. 1 seeded St. Benedict/St. John’s Club team at the 16-team National Collegiate Curling Championship at the Duluth Curling Club Friday/Saturday. Oestreich, who played Cardinal baseball and at the college here, was introduced to curling in  P.E. classes and later became a curling club member playing in high school tournaments.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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