FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 11, 2005

 

Seventeen Bemidji curlers highlight Olympic Trials field

 

(STEVENS POINT, Wis.) Ė The Bemidji Curling Club will boast more athletes than any other club at the 2006 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling Feb. 19-26 at the Madison Curling Club in McFarland, Wis.

 

Seventeen curlers and two coaches are in the field at this highly competitive event to determine the menís and womenís teams for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. That leaves pretty good odds that this north central Minnesota town of 16,000 will once again produce an Olympian.

 

Bemidji residents Stacey (Liapis) Fuchsgruber and Kari (Liapis) Erickson led the U.S. to a fourth-place finish at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Athletes hoping to follow in those footsteps include Natalie Nicholson, Pete Fenson, Eric Fenson, Joe Polo, Cassie Johnson, Jamie Johnson, Cody Stevens, Matt Stevens, Scott Baird, Mark Haluptzok, Tim Johnson, Bob Liapis, Katlyn Schmitt, Sarah Schmitt, Monica Matson, Sarah Lehman and Katie Goodyear. Coaches Bob Fenson and Mike Schmitt fill out the Bemidji contingency.

 

The Bemidji Curling Club, located at 1230 23rd St. NW, has long been a hotbed for producing national and world champions. The club has been the home of 18 U.S. National Champion teams and 50 Minnesota State Champion teams.

 

Pete Fensonís team comes into the Olympic Trials as the No. 1 ranked team in the menís field as determined by peer-seeding. Nicholson, who plays lead on the Patti Lank rink, also goes in as No. 1 team. Joining Fenson is Polo, a native of nearby Cass Lake, Minn. Polo joined the team this year after competing at the junior level.

 

The Johnson sisters have been one of the top womenís teams for the past several seasons, advancing to the semifinals of the last three national championships. They also finished third at the 2002 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, and won the 2002 Junior World title.

 

The Stevens brothers also won bronze at the 2002 Olympic Trials when they were teammates with Baird. The brothers have teamed up this season with 2000 national champion Craig Brown of Madison, Wis., along with Bob Liapis as the teamís alternate. Liapis is the brother of Olympians Fuchsgruber and Erickson.

 

Katlyn Schmitt, a three-time junior national champion, has been away from competitive curling the last few seasons. She will be an underdog at the Olympic Trials but showed her competitiveness and grabbed the first berth (and seventh overall) out of the Challenge Round in January to qualify for the Olympic Trials. Joining Schmitt, who now lives in Madison, Wis., are sister Sarah Schmitt, Matson, Lehman and Goodyear.

 

Scott Baird, the oldest skip in the field at age 53, has plenty of national and international experience. The most recent inductee into the United States Curling Association Hall of Fame, Baird is a four-time national champion and 2003 senior national champion. He brings a veteran team of Eric Fenson, Haluptzok and Tim Johnson to the menís field and should challenge for a spot in the semifinals.

 

The 2006 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling also will serve as the World Trials to choose the USAís entrants at the 2005 Ford World Curling Championships. Ten menís and 10 womenís team will take part in a round robin. The top four teams will advance to the semifinals on Feb. 25. The Page Playoff System will be used to determine the finalists. The No. 1 ranked team will play the No. 2 ranked team. The winner advances to the final while the loser advances to play the winner of the No. 3 vs. No. 4 ranked teams to determine the second finalist. The menís and womenís finals will take place Feb. 26.

 

Highlights from the 2006 U.S. Olympic Trials will be aired on the College Sports Television Network at a date to be announced soon.

 

Curling became a full-medal sport at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. The 2006 Olympic Games will take place Feb. 10-26, 2006. The 2010 Olympics will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

USA Curling is sponsored by AIT Worldwide Logistics and AmerAust Technologies as well as by General Motors, Chevron-Texaco and Bank of America through a joint marketing program with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

 

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For more information: Rick Patzke, USA Curling, rickp@curlingrocks.net, 715-344-1199