Curling

Ann Swisshelm (left) and Margie Smith (right) celebrate after defeating Team Patti Lank in the championship match of the Senior Women's National Championship on Sunday at Fairbanks Curling Club. Laura Stickells/News-Miner

Team Margie Smith and Team Joel Larway won the U.S. Curling Association Men’s and Women’s Senior National Championships on Sunday at the Fairbanks Curling Club, each earning spots in the World Senior Curling Championships beginning April 18 in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Team Margie Smith defeated Team Patti Lank 8-3 in the women’s championship match for the national title. The two teams played each other on Saturday in the round robin portion of the tournament with Lank and company narrowly edging Smith 5-4.

Early in Sunday’s game, it looked like the championship match might go the same way.

“The first end I think Patti was in a little bit more control,” said winning skip Margie Smith on the ice as the post-tournament festivities started to begin upstairs. 

“We were making shots, but maybe just on the wrong inch of the rock or inch of the broom ... but things just started happening our way and it just started to click ... and the tide turned.”

Smith, who traveled from Shoreview, Minnesota, was joined by third Ann Swisshelm, second Shelly Kosal and lead Shelley Dropkin.

This will be her sixth time representing the United States at the world championship.

“I’ve played with some really great women in this sport, but it’s the first time I’ve played with Ann Swisshelm and Shelley Dropkin and they are great representatives of the USA.

“And my other player, Shelly Kosal, I’ve played with quite a bit. We are very excited to represent the USA.”

Winning men’s skip Joel Larway, aided by third Doug Kauffman, second Darren Lehto and lead John Rasmussen defeated Team Jeff Wright 8-3 in the championship game.

“They’re crafty,” Larway said, describing his championship match opponent. “They like to take chances like we do and their rocks curl a little bit more ... so they’re a tough opponent to play.”

Team Joel Larway advanced to Sunday’s championship game after defeating Team Paul Pustovar 7-6 in Sunday morning’s semifinal.

Larway had been trailing Pustovar most of the game, but then won automatically after one of the Pustovar players illegally touched a stones with their broom.

Larway and his team traveled to Fairbanks from Seattle in November to get some extra practice on the ice before the competition. Although he’s curled at the Fairbanks Curling Club 12 times before, he wanted to see what the ice was like this year.

“Every club is a little bit different,” Larway explained. “The acoustics and just the feel of the club and then the ice is always different. Rocks are different.

“Our ice (in Seattle) is very, very straight and here it curls nice, which is a lot better for the type of game that we play, which is a lot of rocks in play. They don’t curl as much at our club at home.”

Larway’s crew is planning to get some additional practice with a few Canadian teams on different ice before traveling to Kelowna.

The World Senior Curling Championships is scheduled for April 18-25.

Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.