High Performance Program team for upcoming season announced

By Terry Kolesar | May 22, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)
May 22, 2015

USA Curling's High Performance Team for 2015-16 announced 

(STEVENS POINT, Wis.) - Thirty-one athletes have received invitations to be a part of USA Curling's High Performance Program (HPP) for the 2015-16 season.  The HPP has been expanded to seven teams, adding an extra men's team for season 2015-16. With three men's teams finishing the season in the top 25 on the World Curling Tour Order of Merit, this decision was a logical step.

This is the second year in which an athlete combine was used as part of the evaluation of athletes being considered to invite into the program. Twenty-eight athletes were invited to the combine, with all but two of those accepting and participating. The combine was held May 16-19 at USA Curling's National Training Center in Blaine, Minn., and all athletes were assessed on technical, tactical, physical and mental skills both on and off the ice. The 26 athletes who participated in the combine were considered alongside 27 of the current 28 HPP athletes who indicated they wished to be considered for the 2015-16 program.

The combine was a part of the overall selection criteria for the HPP. The athletes invited into the program were selected by Derek Brown, director of high performance, and HPP coaches and support staff, who currently include Scott Baird (Bemidji, Minn.), John Benton (St. Michael, Minn.), Phill Drobnick (Eveleth, Minn.), Ann Swisshelm (Chicago), Wally Henry (Beaver Dam, Wis.), and Brian McWilliams (Green Bay, Wis.). Rick Patzke, USA Curling's chief executive officer, also was involved in overseeing the process.

"Once again we had a fantastic pool of athletes to choose from and these decisions are never easy," Brown said. "However, we strongly feel that we have selected the best athletes capable of bringing international success. USA made some significant improvements in terms of results on the World Curling Tour, the Order of Merit and international championships. These are certainly exciting times." During the 2014-15 season, the HPP accomplished five of seven milestones set by the United States Olympic Committee, including achieving key wins at Grand Slam events and on the World Curling Tour.

Those invited into the HPP will have a clear understanding of expectations, commitments, competition and training schedules, and funding.  Performance goals, targets and measurements will be set and these will be reviewed throughout the year.

All athletes accepted into the program for the upcoming season will attend a training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., as well as additional camps this summer in preparation for the season. The national staff attending the camp in Colorado includes Brown, Swisshelm, Drobnick, Baird, Henry, McWilliams (athletic trainer), and Anna Castellano (massage therapist).

Those athletes who applied but were not selected for the HPP for 2015-16 will receive feedback from the national coaching staff regarding their strengths and areas needing improvement as assessed at the combine, and will have an opportunity to speak to the coaches further about this and the program overall. All of these athletes are also being encouraged to participate in the High Performance Program Open Camp Aug. 14-16 in Blaine, Minn., where they will receive further feedback and coaching from the national coaching team, and have the opportunity to network with other athletes. 

As part of the USCA's overall athlete development efforts and Strategic Plan, USCA staff members are working to create and fund a junior development level program that could also launch yet for the 2015-16 season. 

Here is a look at the athletes invited into the HPP for the 2015-16 season:

Jenna Haag (Milwaukee, Wis.) *
Becca Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.) *
Vicky Persinger (Fairbanks, Alaska) *
Tabitha Peterson (Eagan, Minn.) *
Tara Peterson (Eagan, Minn.) *
Nina Roth (McFarland, Wis.) *
Jamie Sinclair (Manotick, Ontario) *
Aileen Sormunen (Duluth, Minn.) *
Monica Walker (Brighton, Mass.)*

Junior women:
Sarah Anderson (Broomall, Pa.) *
Taylor Anderson (Broomall, Pa.)*
Madison Bear (Portage, Wis.)
Cory Christensen (Duluth, Minn.)*
Christine McMakin (North Potomac, Md.)

Craig Brown (Madison, Wis.)* 
Ryan Brunt (Portage, Wis.)*
Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.)
Tyler George (Duluth, Minn.)
Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.)
Colin Hufman (Seattle, Wash.)*
John Landsteiner (Duluth, Minn.)
Kroy Nernberger (Madison, Wis.)* 
Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.)* 
Joe Polo (Duluth, Minn.)* 
John Shuster (Superior, Wis.)
Jared Zezel (Hibbing, Minn.)*
Junior men:
Korey Dropkin (Southborough, Mass.)* 
Quinn Evenson (Fairbanks, Alaska)
Mark Fenner (Bemidji, Minn.)* 
Alex Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.)
Tom Howell (Brick, N.J.)*
*member of the 2014-15 HPP team

USA Curling is sponsored by AtomOS, Nike, Brooms Up Curling Supplies, The RAM Restaurant & Brewery, Balance Plus and Sitrin, and is partnered with Hilton, United Airlines, CurlingZone, and RJM Licensing, Inc. 
For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling, terry.kolesar@usacurl.org, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell). Visit www.usacurl.org for regular curling updates.