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Competition rocks at Bemidji Curling Club

Lisa and Scott McLean from Seattle, Wash., ring their cowbells to cheer on their son, Derrick, Monday afternoon at the USCA Junior National Championships at the Bemidji Curling Club. See Page 6 for more coverage. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper1 / 2
Martha Nelson, right, and granddaughters Avery Macleod, 10, left, and Anna Macleod, 8, wait for their food Monday afternoon at the Bemidji Curling Club kitchen window. The family is hosting the men's National Junior Curling Championships team from Alaska. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron2 / 2

The wild rice soup and fry bread were hot and so were the teams as the United States Curling Association Junior National Championships headed into the week Monday.

Young curlers from as far away as the East Coast, state of Washington and Alaska greeted each other with "Good Curling" and took their turns on the ice.

Marv Roxstrom - assisted in the kitchen by Clayton Braaten and Doug Hood wearing a "The Pizza Man Delivers" T-shirt referring to Olympic curling medalist Pete Fenson, who owns Dave's Pizza - said the lunch specials will reflect locally produced products all week. Monday's was the KC's wild rice soup and fry bread. Other specials feature pancakes with Red Lake Nation Foods syrups, pizza from the Peppercorn, Dave's Pizza, pulled pork sandwiches with Beer's Black Dog Barbecue Sauce and Red Lake walleye at the Saturday post-competition banquet at the National Guard.

Roxstrom noted Monday that by 1 p.m. the wild rice soup was nearly finished and the customers were increasing.

"We have 300 people (at the championships) but a lot of places to eat in town," he said.

Roxstrom counted the 100 curlers on the 20 teams, at least 20 coaches, ice makers and officials, as well as the spectators. He said all the spectator seats had been sold, mostly to supporters of teams from other states.

"You're looking at 150 bucks for a seat," he said.

Shelly Dropkin from Massachusetts and Kaaron Ross from New Jersey made up snack boxes of fruit, granola bars and peanut butter crackers for members of the East Coast Grand National Curling Club.

"They have a 5-minute break with their coaches, so we throw food at them so they can keep their energy up," said Ross.

Dropkin said they flew on Friday to Minneapolis and drove from there to Bemidji missing the weekend's storm by a day.

"I think they're having a great time," said Kevin Fenner, coach for Bemidji's Trevor Andrews Rink - Andrews, skip; Aaron Tasa, third; Nic Wagner, second; and Mark Fenner, lead. The team also recently added Ben Wilson, who attends the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks with Wagner.

"They're seeing a lot of good curling," Kevin Fenner said.

He said the curlers seem to like the new electronic-sensor-equipped rocks supplied by the U.S. Curling Association. The Junior Championships in Bemidji are the first to use the new rocks that make it unnecessary for judges to watch the hog line to make sure the curlers release the rocks fairly.

"They seem to run true," Fenner said of the rocks as he watched the skips shouting directions.

"(Shouting) is part of the game," he said. "I don't know if it helps."

Looking out over the teams from the observation window, Fenner said he expects some of the youngsters competing at the Junior Championships are future Olympians.

Another group of spectators, Martha Nelson of Bemidji and her granddaughters Avery Macleod, 10, and Anna Macleod, 8, were paying special attention to the boys' team from Alaska. Nelson said she and the girls' grandfather, Alan Korpi, are hosting the Alaska boys and promised their guests they wouldn't root for Bemidji's Andrews Rink. However, as of Monday, the Minnesota rinks were ahead of Alaska in the standings.