Last year, the world tuned in to NBC to catch the Primetime events of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. As usual, most watched the Olympics for their favorite events. Statistically, Ice Hockey and Figure Skating are the most popular winter sports featured, but one ice event often goes unnoticed – curling. Most know of it and what it looks like, but most know none of the rules or physical preparation curling requires.
However, one Walpole High School student knows all of this: senior Jenna Burchesky.
Having excelled in curling for the past six years, this month, Burchesky represented the United States in the Optimist Under-18 International Curling Championship. This tournament invites elite junior curlers from Japan, the United States, and Japan to compete in international competition. The tournament began on April 1st and continued until April 5th in Edmonton, Alberta.
Curling is an ice sport, played by two teams of four players. Each player slides a 40-pound granite rock, or stone across the ice towards a common target, sweeping after the slide in order to get the rock closer to its mark. The team which get more of its rocks closer to the center of the target is the winner.
“Curling is an extremely hard sport. It is a game of precision and inches. You could win or lose a game just by an inch. An extensive amount of strategy goes into the game because just like any other sport you can win or lose a game on strategy alone,” said Burchesky.
Returning for the 2014-2015 season, Burchesky’s team won the regional championship as Team Massachusetts under the advising of the former USA Curling Coach. After nine round robin games, a tie breaker, and three medal games, the team headed to the gold medal round; a win meant the opportunity to represent the United States at Worlds in Estonia. Despite coming up short – her team lost 6-10 – their silver medal and title of second best junior women’s curling team in the nation earned the team great recognition.
“After my team’s performance at Nationals this year, the United States Curling Association decided that my teammate Allison Howell and I would represent the USA at the Optimist International Junior Curling Championships,” said Burchesky.
A third generation curler, Burchesky started competitively curling with the backing of her family six years ago. On her curling team, Burchesky attends ice practice six days a week and works out at the gym in her downtime. Her competitions are frequent – almost every weekend – and long, three or four days long. Not only are her competitions long, but they also often require lengthy travel. In addition to the New England area, Burchesky’s team frequents Maryland, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota, and sometimes even outside the United States.
Additionally, the practice for competition is vigorous. Burchesky stresses the need for physical fitness. She said, “A huge part of curling is endurance. The main muscles used are biceps, quads, and abs.” Even though many do not know the rules of curling and what is requires physically, the sport is intense, strategic, and one that requires great athletic strength.
Burchesky has been competing to represent the Eastern US for the past six years; however, she first qualified for Junior Nationals during the 2013-2014 season. At Junior Nationals, the top ten teams in the country play head-to-head to determine the USA representative at the World Junior Championships. In 2013, her team of four players and an alternate hailed from Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. Here, her team represented the state of Maryland as it was the home state of their “skip,” the team captain. In her first Junior Nationals, Burchesky’s team placed fifth in the Round Robin tournament.
Last week at the Optimist International Championship, Burchesky and her team came in ninth place overall, an impressive feat for a first-time team competing on the international level.