The curling shuffle: USA Curling’s High Performance makeover

 

John Shuster won Olympic gold. Jamie Sinclair made the World Championship semifinals, won a Grand Slam event and stands ninth in the Order of Merit. Then the seniors earned silver (women) and bronze (men) at the World Championships.

USA Curling had a big year. But there’s usually a bit of turnover after the Olympics, and so the teams in the High Performance program, which supports the select few who’ve shown an aptitude for winning things, will be shuffling a bit.

The full comparison is at the bottom, but I’ll got into a bit more detail than that press release. Still a few things I don’t know, though.

 

Bold italic – no longer in HP program 
Italic – still in HP program but changed team (including graduating juniors)
Bold – new to HP program

MEN

2017-18 recap: John Shuster, Olympic champion. Matt Hamilton is using his gold medal as a ball-marker when he plays golf. Perhaps that was an outlier — Shuster was no better than fifth in any significant events outside Pyeongchang — but that’s quite an outlier.

Toss out the Olympics and qualifying, and Heath McCormick was actually more consistent than Shuster, winning a couple of U.S. events. But he was second in the Olympic trials and then, in Shuster’s absence, second in the U.S. championships, missing out on Worlds as well.

Rich Ruohonen upset McCormick in the U.S. championships and finished a solid fifth in the World Championships. Meanwhile, Craig Brown took time off from his High Performance team, leaving Kroy Nernberger in charge for the U.S. Championships.

Changes: The headline: John Shuster’s vice, Tyler George, is taking time off from competitive curling. Chris Plys moves into that spot from the same position on Heath McCormick’s team.

McCormick is out. Not sure if that’s his choice or USA Curling’s. In any case, the front end of McCormick’s team will become the back end and be reunited with former HP junior teammates Mark Fenner and Alex Fenson. (Quinn Evenson, mentioned below, was that junior team’s alternate.)

Ruohonen brings his whole team, formerly based in the Pacific Northwest, into the HP program. Craig Brown’s team is out.

Team Shuster

  • 2017-18: John Shuster, Tyler George, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner, Joe Polo
  • 2018-19: Shuster, Chris Plys, Hamilton, Landsteiner, Polo

Team McCormick (2017-18)/Team Dropkin (2018-19)

  • 2017-18: Heath McCormick, Chris Plys, Korey Dropkin, Tom Howell
  • 2018-19: Korey Dropkin, Tom Howell, Mark Fenner, Alex Fenson

Team Brown/Nernberger (2017-18)/Team Ruohonen (2018-19)

  • 2017-18: Craig Brown, Kroy Nernberger, Jason Smith, Sean Beighton, Quinn Evenson
  • 2018-19: Rich Ruohonen, Greg Persinger, Colin Hufman (returning to program), Phil Tilker

Mixed doubles pool/spares

  • 2017-18: Derrick McLean, Jared Zezel
  • 2018-19: McLean, Kroy Nernberger, Sean Beighton

 

JUNIOR MEN

Three players aged out. Stopera, the U.S. champion and fourth-place finisher in World Juniors, returns with just one change. Trevor Marquardt, second in U.S. Juniors, joins the fun.

Team Stopera

  • 2017-18: Andrew Stopera, Luc Violette, Ben Richardson, Graem Fenson, Caleb Clawson
  • 2018-19: Stopera, Violette, Richardson, G. Fenson, Riley Fenson

Team Connolly (2017-18)/Team Sinnett (2018-19)

  • 2017-18: Nick Connolly, Andrew Dunnam, Jonathon Harstad, Chase Sinnett
  • 2018-19: Sinnett, Harstad, Trevor Marquardt, Eli Clawson

WOMEN 

2017-18 recap: Nina Roth won the Olympic trials, tied for fifth in Pyeongchang and was a strong 10th in the global Order of Merit yearly standings. But Jamie Sinclair came on strong at the end of the year — her win in the U.S. Championships was actually not one of her top eight points performances in the Order of Merit, in which she took seventh in the world behind the usual Canadian powers. She was fourth in the World Championships and then won a Grand Slam event — the Players’ Championship.

Cory Christensen, still just 23 years old, took time off from her team to serve as Roth’s Olympic alternate. She still posted a few good results.

Changes: One “trade” — Vicky Persinger for the young Anderson twins. Other than that, there’s just one set of dominoes between the adult level and juniors — Madison Bear, skip of the fifth-place team at World Juniors, graduates and is added as a 13th player in the pool (no one is departing), and in the reshuffling, U.S. Under-18 champion Leah Yavarow joins the juniors.

That’s not much change, but so far, it’s dominating the discussion at CurlingZone. The men’s changes were less surprising.

This is a stable (and still relatively young) group — Carlson was added in 2016-17, Bear joined as a junior in 2015-16, and the other 11 adult players have been involved (some starting as juniors) since at least 2014-15.

Team Sinclair

  • 2017-18: Jamie Sinclair, Alex Carlson, Vicky Persinger, Monica Walker
  • 2018-19: Sinclair, Carlson, Walker, Sarah Anderson, Taylor Anderson

Team Roth

  • 2017-18: Nina Roth, Tabitha Peterson, Aileen Geving, Becca Hamilton
  • 2018-19: same

Team Christensen

  • 2017-18: Cory Christensen, Sarah Anderson, Taylor Anderson, Jenna Martin
  • 2018-19: Christensen, Vicky Persinger, Martin, Madison Bear

JUNIOR WOMEN

See above for Bear’s strong showing at World Juniors. Cora Farrell was third in the U.S. Championships behind Sinclair and Christensen.

Team Bear (2017-18)/Team Farrell (2018-19)

  • 2017-18: Madison Bear, Annmarie Dubberstein, Jenna Burchesky, Allison Howell
  • 2018-19: Cora Farrell, Dubberstein, Burchesky, Howell

Team Farrell (2017-18)/Team Flannery (2018-19)

  • 2017-18: Cora Farrell, Cait Flannery, Lexi Lanigan, Rebecca Miles
  • 2018-19: Flannery, Lanigan, Miles, Leah Yavarow
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