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Bemidji curler Natalie Nicholson earns spot in 2010 Olympics; Haluptzok next to try

From left, Debbie McCormick, Allison Pottinger, Nicole Joraanstad and Natalie Nicholson have won the right to represent the United States in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

One Bemidji curler has earned a spot in the 2010 Winter Olympics today, and another will bid for a trip to Vancouver later in the day.

Natalie Nicholson, lead on the Debbie McCormick rink of Rio, Wis., slid and swept her way to a win in the finals of the U.S. Olympic Trials. McCormick's crew became the first American athletes to secure spots for the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Later today, Mark Haluptzok of Bemidji will play in the finals for the Tyler George rink of Duluth. That match starts at 4 p.m. Bemidji time.

Team McCormick beat a familiar foe in the finals Saturday, knocking off Patti Lank's rink 8-5 as McCormick sealed the win with a brilliant shot on the match's final rock, knocking two of Lank's stones out of the way.

This will be McCormick's third trip to the Winter Olympics. She also was a member of the fifth-place team in 1998 at Nagano, and the 2002 squad that finished fourth in Salt Lake City. The 2002 team was skipped by Bemidji's Kari Erickson. Erickson's sister, Stacy Liapis, also was on that team.

Nicholson was sharp in Saturday's final against Patti Lank of Niagara Falls, N.Y., throwing at 90 percent accuracy on her 20 attempts.

The trials also doubled as the national championships, giving McCormick her fourth straight crown.