Trophies were handed out Saturday at the 2017 USA Curling National Championships in Everett, Washington, but bigger prizes were allocated the day before as two teams were selected to represent Team USA at the upcoming world championships.
Jamie Sinclair and John Shuster’s teams took the national titles, but it was Nina Roth joining Shuster as the two rinks that have earned the right to represent their country on the world stage.
Both had to successfully negotiate a season-long point competition to earn the honor of wearing the red, white and blue March 17-25 at the 2017 CPT World Women’s Curling Championship Beijing and the 2017 Ford World Men’s Championship April 1-9 in Edmonton, Alberta.
With solid performances at worlds, the two teams hope to earn the U.S. quota spots at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The combined placements of countries at the 2016 and 2017 world championships determine which nations compete in South Korea next year.
The Nina Roth rink will travel to China by virtue of earning a spot in Saturday’s championship round. Ranked No. 19 on the World Curling Tour and holding the top spot in the season-long points race, Roth and teammates Tabitha Peterson, Aileen Geving and Becca Hamilton knew a berth in the final would secure their ticket to Beijing, and they closed that deal Friday with an 8-1 decision over Cassie Potter’s rink.
Three-time Olympian Shuster and teammates Tyler George, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner and Joe Polo earned the chance to improve on the bronze won at last year’s world championships by virtue of Todd Birr’s semifinal victory over Brady Clark’s rink.
Although they advanced to the championship round, Birr’s rink is ranked lower than Shuster’s in the World Curling Tour standings. After winning his sixth national title, Shuster will compete in his seventh world championships in Edmonton. A member of Pete Fenton’s bronze-medal rink at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, Shuster was been the U.S. men’s skip at the last two Olympics.
As the women’s championship played out, the final obstacle in Roth’s path to a third national title was the Jamie Sinclair rink with Alex Carlson, Vicky Persinger and Monica Walker, a side that claimed a 5-3 win when the two met in round-robin play.
In her first national final as a skip, Sinclair ran out to a 4-1 lead by the halfway point, but Roth drew on her experience to pull back to 5-4. A pinpoint draw on her final stone in the ninth gave Sinclair a 6-4 lead that stood through the final end, earning her first national championship with a 7-1 record for the week. Roth closed out with a 6-3 mark.
The men’s title game began with single points going to the side with the hammer, giving Shuster a 2-1 lead after three ends. The match turned in the fourth when Birr broke out four huge points for a 5-2 advantage. Shuster responded with a double in the fifth that was answered by a Birr single in the sixth.
Shuster then hung a big number of his own in the seventh, scoring three to retake the lead, 7-6. After Birr evened the score in the eighth, the match came down to the final stone and Shuster came up big, slipping it between two of Birr’s stones for the decisive point.
Shuster concluded the tournament undefeated in 11 matches, while Birr finished with an 8-4 mark for the week.