FAIRBANKS—“It’s the biggest curling event in the history of the Fairbanks Curling Club,” co-chairman Denny Thies said of the USA Curling Junior National Championships that get under way Sunday and run through Feb. 5.
It marks the fourth time the Fairbanks club has hosted a national championship, but the previous three — a men’s national championship and two mixed national championships — featured just 10 rinks or teams.
The 2011 Junior National Championships feature 10 men’s and 10 women’s teams from Alaska and throughout the Lower 48 competing in a weeklong battle for the national title. The champions earn a trip to Perth, Scotland to compete Junior World Championships.
“We’re ready to go,” Thies said Tuesday afternoon. “This is a really big deal for Fairbanks.”
Both of the teams representing Alaska are from Fairbanks.
The Alaska women’s team is comprised of skip Vicky Persinger, third Tina Persinger, second Meredith Hazen and lead Kaitlin Fowler. The team is coached by Leland Rich and Ken Persinger.
The rest of the women’s field features two teams each from New York, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin and one from Washington.
The Alaska men’s team features skip Matt Birklid, third Atticus Wallace, second Ryan Flippo, lead Oliver Halverson and fifth Quinn Evenson. The team is coached by Ron Birklid.
The Alaskans will be competing in a men’s field that includes two teams each from Massachusetts, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and one team from Washington.
“I think both teams have a good chance of getting into the qualifier,” Thies said.
For more information on each of the teams coming to Fairbanks and a complete schedule of events, see the special insert section on the Junior Nationals in today’s Daily News-Miner.
Curlers begin arriving in town Thursday evening, with practice sessions and a social gathering set for Saturday.
Curling begins at 8 a.m. Sunday and runs through the championship matches at noon on Feb. 5.
Each team will play nine round-robin games through Thursday evening. The top four teams in each division advance to the elimination round.
The first part of the championship round is called the page, where the first place team from round-robin plays the second-place team and third-place team takes on the fourth-place team. The winners of the first vs. second advances to the finals, while the loser of that game plays the winner of the game between the third- and fourth-place teams to determine the second team in Saturday’s finals.
Thies said the curling club has undergone some extensive renovations in preparation for the big event. An entire new wall has been built along sheet six, floors on both the lower and upper levels have been replaced and the kitchen area has been remodeled.
“There’s been a lot of work put in and the club has never looked better,” Thies said.
Thies also praised the volunteer efforts of the 12-member organizing committee and more than 130 volunteers who made the national championships become a reality. Dave Flippo is co-chair of the committee.
“We’ve had a tremendous volunteer effort from members of the club in order to make this happen,” Thies said.
Major sponsors of the event are BP and Fairbanks Youth Sports.
Bleachers will be located above the ice on the upper level of the curling club during the entire week of competition, and on sheet six during the round-robin portion of the event. Additional seating will be along sheet one during the page, semifinals and finals.
There will be no viewing from behind the glass in the downstairs area. It will be curtained off and only curlers, coaches and staff will be permitted in the area.
The 50 VIP seats are already sold out, but there is plenty of general admission seating available.
Tickets are $10 per day and $15 for the semifinals and finals.
Concessions will be available throughout the tournament.
On the net
Live scoring, standings and other information about the 2011 Junior National Championships will be available through the USA Curling website at www.usacurl.org/curlingrocks/ and follow the links to the information you are looking for.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.