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Fenson shoots for seventh national title

Bemidji's Pete Fenson rink puts its U.S. men's curling title on the line when the national event begins an eight-day stand today at Fargo.

Fenson will open the nine-match round robin tonight at 8:30 facing Geoff Goodland of Eau Claire, Wis.

Two rounds are scheduled Sunday, Monday and Wednes-day with single rounds on Tuesday and Thursday.

Tiebreakers. if needed, are set for Thursday afternoon and evening with the opening round of the Page playoffs at noon Friday and the semifinals at 8. The championships are Saturday, the women at 10 and the men at 3.

The champions advance to the World tournaments, the men's April 2-10 at Regina, Sask., and the women's March 19-26 at Esbjerg, Denmark.

Like Fenson, the Erika Brown rink of Madison, Wis., is back to defend its national title.

Fenson will be joined by veterans Shawn Rojeski of Chisholm as third and Joe Polo, a Bemidjian now living in Duluth, as second. Ryan Brunt of Bemidji replaces Tyler George as lead.

George will be on hand, however, skipping his own rink which also includes a second former National Junior Champ in Chrys Plys of Duluth as third.

The opening ceremonies are set for 2:30 today with the women taking the ice at 4:30 and the men at 8:30.

There are 10 rinks in each division.

Bemidji's Natalie Nicholson will be back in the field, curling second on the Allison Pottinger rink from Eden Prairie. Nicole Joraanstad of Madison and Tabitha Peterson of Eagan round out the rink.

The opening day will feature the USA Curling Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Bemidji's Bob Fenson prior to the start of the men's draw.

Fenson coached his son's rink to the Bronze Medal at the 2006 Olympics at Torino, Italy, and has coached at every level in curling.

He was the lead on the Scott Baird rink that won the 1979 national title and finished fifth at the World meet at Berne, Switzerland.

In addition to Pete Fenson, the men's field includes two-time national champ Craig Brown, 2010 Olympian Shuster, a one-time Fenson lead, four-time winner John Larway of Washington and 2007 champ and world Bronze Medalist Todd Birr of Mankato.. The 1997 national champ Craig Disher of North Dakota is also in the field.

Goodland, tonight's Fenson foe, captured the Senior Men's national title last week.

The women's field finds Brown joined by nine-time national champ and 2010 Olympian Pottinger, who is making her debut as a skip at the nationals, 2006 Olympian and 2005 national champ Cassie Potter of Birchwood, Minn. and two-time winner Patti Lank of Lewiston, N.Y.

Duluth's Aileen Sormunen, the U.S. Junior Champion and Silver Bay's Norma O'Leary are also entered.

Rounding out the men's field are Matt Hamilton of Wisconsin, Zach Jacobson of North Dakota and Heath McCormick of Sarnia, Ont.

The women's field includes 17-year-old Jenna Haag of Wisconsin, Chrissy Haase of New York, Lori Karst of Wisconsin, and Nicole Reiser of North Dakota.

Fenson is no stranger to the nationals. He began as third on the Scott Baird national champs in 1993 and '94 that finished third and fifth at the worlds. Mark Haluptzok and Tim Johnson completed those rinks.

He returned as skip in 2003 with his brother Eric, Rojeski and Shuster. That same foursome repeated in 2005 and 2006.

Fenson schedule

Saturday 8:30 p.m. vs. Goodland

Sunday, 12 noon vs. Hamilton

Sunday, 8 p.m. vs. Jacobson

Monday, 12 noon vs. McCormick

Monday, 8 p.m. vs. Disher

Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. vs. Larway

Wednesday, 8 a.m. vs. Birr

Wednesday, 4 p.m. vs. George

Thursday, 8 a.m. vs. Brown

Friday, 12 noon, Playoff first round

Friday, 8 p.m., Playoff semifinals

Saturday, 3 p.m., Playoff final