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Schultz claims U.S. curling championship

Beth Bragg

Anchorage's Jessica Schultz, a member of U.S. curling's version of the Dream Team, has a whole lot more to dream about now that she's a national champion again.

Schultz, a 2006 Winter Olympian, won her third national title Saturday in Green Bay, Wis., where she was part of an all-star women's team that earned the gold medal.

The victory advances Schultz to a pair of big competitions -- the world championships, which begin March 16 in Riga, Latvia, and the U.S. Olympic Trials, which begin Nov. 7 in Fargo, N.D.

At the Olympic trials, Schultz and her teammates will be among four teams vying for the United States' berth at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. At the world championships, they will be the only Americans competing.

It will be the third world championships for Schultz, who won a silver medal in 2005 but missed the medal round in 2011.

"It's a dream come true," Schultz said in a press release from U.S. Curling. "It's been our goal for the last two years so we've been really focused. We knew this is what we wanted and we're going to do anything it takes to get there. It's going to be an amazing feeling to represent the U.S. again at a world championship."

Schultz and her teammates -- skip Erika Brown, Debbie McCormick and Ann Swisshelm -- needed overtime Saturday to earn the trip to the world championships. They beat the Courtney George rink 7-6 in an extra end in the gold-medal match.

The victory was the latest of many for members of Team Brown, which now becomes Team USA for the world championships.

It's an experienced, highly decorated team, one that has been called a dream team by some in the sport. Brown, of Oakville, Ontario, is a 1998 Olympian with seven U.S. titles. McCormick, of Rio, Wis., is a three-time Olympian (2010, 2002, 1998) and an eight-time U.S. champion. Swisshelm, of Chicago, is a 2002 Olympian and a five-time U.S. champion.

At 28, Schultz is the youngest of the group.

After placing a disappointing sixth at last year's national championships, Team Brown posted a 7-2 record in round-robin play at Green Bay's Cornerstone Community Ice Center to advance to the medal round. It needed an extra end to win its semifinal match, 8-7, advance to the gold-medal match.

Team Brown faltered early in the extra end, and Team George had a chance to win on the final stone. George's attempt at a double takeout was a nose hit and failed. Brown came through with a takeout on her final stone for the win.

"We just had to keep reminding each other to breathe and that we've been here before, that we're pretty confident and that we'll make our shots," Schultz said. "We were hoping it would come down to Erika making a shot to win."

A 2003 East High graduate, Schultz learned to curl at the Anchorage Curling Club, where she became a top junior curler. She lives in Richfield, Minn., where she is able to pursue the sport while also working as a physical therapist.

Another Alaskan earned a silver medal Saturday -- Colin Hufman of Fairbanks.

Hufman, who grew up in Fairbanks and lives in Seattle, earned a berth at the Olympic Trials for his second-place finish with the Tyler George rink.

Hufman, George, Chris Plys and Rich Ruohonen lost the gold-medal match 6-5 to the Brady Clark rink of Seattle. Team Clark will go to the world championships and both teams will go to the Olympics Trials.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.


By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com
Contact Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or on