Sioux Falls Curling Club looks to grow sport after winning silver medal at nationals
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Sioux Falls Curling Club has set out to grow the sport of curling in the region since its inception in 2014, and recently they reached new heights with national recognition.
Last week, the Arena National Championships took place in Eveleth, Minnesota. The distinction of “arena” curling is that the level of competition was club curlers who played at a non-curling specific location. Twelve men’s teams and twelve women’s teams made the cut in regional competitions and three Sioux Falls teams qualified: Team Weber and Team Nilson on the men’s side and another Team Weber on the women’s side.
Team Weber even left with some hardware. Team Weber is named after their “skip” position as curling teams traditionally are. The team consists of Austin Weber, Mike Johnson, Nick Andrajack and Adam Craghead. The team members played on separate teams in league play in Sioux Falls but came together to form a championship-level group for traveling competition. In an earlier round, the two men’s teams from Sioux Falls faced off with Team Weber coming out on top and later making it out of the round-robin to the final round. Members of the team say that in the championship game, they felt like they did not play at their best and had a chance to actually bring home the gold. Still, they said the experience was exceptional and it was a testament to how far they’ve come.
“Being second place out of twelve other men’s teams that all earned their spot there by succeeding in their regions, it’s a pretty great feeling,” said team skip Austin Weber. “Placing higher than ten other teams that all were representing their regions from all across the country... in reflection was fantastic.”
The Arena National Championships were far from where the members of Team Weber were ten years ago. All four members were gradually introduced to the sport and, through their own paths to Sioux Falls, decided to try the curling club.
Some members have only been participating for six years, and now they own a silver medal.
“It’s a pretty amazing turnabout,” said team lead Adam Craghead. “I would have never thought that I’d be winning nationally in anything in any sport. I think it just goes to show how accessible the sport is. You put your time in and you can move up really quickly.”
Accessibility is something that curling clubs in South Dakota have worked to maintain.
“Our goal is to grow the club here. Try and get more people to learn that curling is available in Sioux Falls, to enjoy it and really come and give it a try,” Weber said. “It really is a lifetime sport. Everyone from a teenager to someone in their eighties can still play, can still be out on the ice and have fun with friends and family.”
At times, accessibility is a challenge for Sioux Falls Curling because of practice time. As arena curlers, they need to rent ice time and the non-curling-specific venue of the Scheels IcePlex hosts figure skating, multiple hockey teams and more.
“We kind of have a disadvantage in that we don’t have a lot of time on the ice,” Craghead said. “We can’t curl against those teams that have all the time of ice as they desire and can practice. It’s really accessible to compete at that national rank even though we’re given a little bit of a shortfall.”
All four members of Team Weber said that the camaraderie is big in the sport.
“When you’re out curling, you’re competing against the ice and the stones. You’re there with the other team, but you have a conversation with them before and after the game and you really get to know them as people and you build a pretty large network around it,” Craghead said.
Another big way that curling brings people together is through a tradition known as “broomstacking”. Broomstacking is where after a competition, the winning team buys the first round of beverages for the losing team. Curlers said that the tradition is less about the beverages and more about displaying sportsmanship and building community within the sport.
“You get to know everyone you’re playing with and against and on your league night,” explained Weber. “That’s part of what makes curling such a really fun sport.”
The team hopes that their recent success could show those considering trying curling that Sioux Falls can play on the big stage.
“That’s kind of how we got together,” Weber said. “We were just a group of guys who enjoyed spending time together playing the sport and trying to get better and we got better and better to the point we were able to earn a silver medal.”
The Sioux Falls Curling Club is hosting a “Learn to Curl” night in late December. The club will provide the necessary equipment and more details will be released at a later time.
If you’re looking to get involved with the sport or just try it out, there are several curling clubs around the state.
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