The U.S. Curling Championships are underway, and though I neglected to do a preview (in part because I was curling myself on Saturday — literally, in one case I think I threw myself farther down the ice than the rock), it’s actually a good time to look at the stats coming into the tournament and see how the curlers’ form is holding up.
On the men’s side, we’ve had a couple of surprises. Heath McCormick, by pretty much any metric, has had the best season of any U.S. skip aside from the occasional inexplicable loss. Then it’s a tough call between the other two teams in the USA’s High Performance Program, Craig Brown and World Championship medalist John Shuster, with defending champion Brady Clark lurking.
Todd Birr is close behind, and then it’s a bit of a drop to 2006 Olympic medalist Pete Fenson. The next tier has Stephen Dropkin and promising junior (representing the DMV!) Hunter Clawson. Then there’s Darryl Sobering and Alex Leichter, who have played in a lot of top events this season.
Results so far? Shuster is 4-0, including a tight win over McCormick. Birr, Brown and Clark are 3-1, contesting for the four playoff spots as expected. The surprise is McCormick, who opened with 10-2 loss to Birr and has also dropped games to Brown and Shuster. He’s played three of the top five, so perhaps he can make a run in the last five round-robin games, but that’s still not the start we expected.
Clawson also had a tough early draw, facing Shuster, Clark and Brown, but he pulled out a win against Brown to stand at 2-2, very much in the thick of things.
In the women’s competition, Nina Roth is the favorite, but she dropped her first game to fellow High Performance skip Cory Christensen. The other High Performance skip, Jamie Sinclair, is unbeaten but has not yet faced Roth, Christensen or …
… the surprise team, Cassie Potter. You may remember her as Cassie Johnson from the 2006 Olympics, where she and her teammates crashed a lot of web servers. Potter hasn’t been fully active in competition in recent years, but she came back this year and crept up to rank a solid fourth in my stats-based-but-ultimately-subjective rankings.
Next up in the rankings is Potter’s 2006 teammate Jessica Schultz, whose team includes 2006 alternate Courtney George. They’ve had the misfortune of facing Potter, Sinclair and Roth in their first three games. So being 0-3 isn’t surprising, but their stats also haven’t been particularly good.
The World Junior Championships account for a few notable absences here. Annmarie Dubberstein is going to World Juniors, and she took Madison Bear as her alternate. “Team Bear” is still competing in nationals and has a win over Cristin Clark. (On the men’s side, Andrew Stopera upset Clawson to take the World Juniors berth.)
No senior teams entered, nor did any other juniors, so the eighth spot in the women’s field went to Becca Wood, who has been outscored 36-6 in her first three games. But she managed five against Clark, so perhaps she can pull off a good result by the time things are done.
Current standings, along with my rankings:
#3 Shuster: 4-0 (beat McCormick)
#5 Birr: 3-1 (beat McCormick)
#2 Brown: 3-1 (beat Clark, McCormick)
#4 Clark: 3-1
#8 Clawson: 2-2 (beat Brown)
#6 Fenson: 2-2 (beat Birr)
#11 Leichter: 1-3 (beat Fenson)
#1 McCormick: 1-3 (beat Leichter)
#10 Sobering: 1-3 (beat Dropkin)
#7 Dropkin: 0-4
#4 Potter: 3-0 (beat Christensen)
#3 Sinclair: 3-0
#2 Christensen: 2-1 (beat Roth)
#1 Roth: 2-1
#8 Clark: 1-2 (beat Wood)
#7 Bear: 1-2 (beat Clark)
#5 Schultz: 0-3
#23 Wood: 0-3
And YES — you can watch all this.