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Husband-wife team to compete in mixed doubles competition this week

It has been said that a successful marriage takes a team effort -but for Nate and Jamie Haskell, they take that idea to the next level.

The Haskells today begin competing together in the U.S. Mixed Doubles Championship at the Bemidji Curling Club.

A curling team typically is composed of four individuals, but for the Mixed Doubles Championships, each team will consist of a pair of competitors.

Or, in the Haskells' case, one married couple.

Also competing in the tournament is "Team Jackson" with Bemidji curlers Chase Jackson and Sarah Lehman.

Competition begins today as 14 two-person teams will, begin to face off in a round robin tournament. The competition culminates on Sunday with the semifinals and finals.

Two Olympians from the 2006 Winter Olympics are competing in the event this week, including Jamie Haskell of Bemidji and Maureen Brunt of Minneapolis.

Jamie's parents introduced her to curling when she was 7 years old, teaching her and her sister, Cassie, the basics of the sport, she said. Later, the sisters took part in the Bemidji Junior Program.

Despite both being Bemidji High School graduates - Nate in 1998 and Jamie in 1999 - the two didn't meet until the fall of 2002.

But, once they did connect, it wasn't too long before Nate got involved in curling as well.

"I was going and watching (Jamie) at the curling club a lot, and I decided to join the leagues," Nate said.

He had some curling experience, having taken a curling class in high school, but as a hockey player, he said he didn't have a lot of time for other activities while in school.

Jamie said Nate "got hooked" after he would come and watch her practice and compete at the Bemidji Curling Club. It wasn't too long before he joined a league.

"He realized how big a deal curling is to me in my life," Jamie said. "I didn't pressure him."

This week will not mark the first time the couple has competed together. They also were on the same team in 2004 for the Minnesota mixed doubles competition. They competed then along with Cassie Potter, Jamie's sister, won the title and made it to the national competition. They also were on the same team for the state's mixed doubles competition last year, but did not qualify for nationals that time.

This week's event is a little different in that it is a brand-new competition, Nate said, and features teams of two.

"We've been talking about strategy for a while," he said, adding that they've been practicing for this competition for the last two weeks.

While he and Jamie, who married in June 2006, certainly want to win the event, he said they mostly are looking to "have a good time" and perform well.

Together, Nate and Jamie practice about five hours a week, Jamie said. But they're careful not to overdo it.

"It can wear down your legs and knees," she explained.

They already have had five weekend events this fall, and Jamie explained that there typically are competitions on every other weekend during the height of the season.

"I'm happy that we're both doing this," she said. "It's exciting."