First curlers from Midwest to make USA Curling Junior High Performance teams
When Delaney Strouse found out last spring that she'd made one of the two female USA Curling Junior High Performance (HP) teams, the now-19-year-old college freshman from Midland wanted to celebrate.
But she couldn't -- that is, not until her twin brother, Sam Strouse, found out several hours later that he had been named to one of the two male Junior High Performance teams.
"It felt really, really good (to make the team)," said Delaney, who, along with Sam, subsequently spent a week at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs in August. "(But) I found out I made the team like four or five hours before my brother did. That was probably the most brutal four or five hours of my life.
"Once I found out Sam made the team, I felt I could really celebrate. I wanted Sam to make the team just as much, maybe even more than I wanted to make the team."
Delaney attends Wayne State University in Detroit, and her brother attends Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
Sam started curling in sixth grade and Delaney started the following year. They were both selected to the HP teams from a developmental pool of top young curlers.
Sam had similar thoughts.
"When it came out that we both made it, I was super excited," he said, adding that if only one of them had made a Junior HP team, it would have been tougher for their parents, Jill and Scott, to catch both twins' games.
"It would have been rough for my parents," he said. "They would have been trying to chase us around. My dad would not have been able to coach my sister at all.
"We've always had a sibling rivalry, so it was really nice that we both made it," he added.
Not only did the twins make the Junior HP teams in the same year, but they also are the first two athletes from the five-state Great Lakes Curling Association region to earn that honor in the young history of the Junior HP program.
USA Curling has only two junior women's teams and two junior men's teams, and athletes can be in the program until turning 21.
Delaney and Sam and their respective teammates spent Aug. 13-18 at the OTC, where they did athletic training, testing and team bonding and consulted with a nutritionist and a sports psychologist.
They were both inspired by being able to use the same workout facility that Olympic athletes use.
"It is inspiring to lift in that weight room," Sam said. "There's 'Team USA' splattered everywhere."
The curlers also climbed a .8-mile, 2,000-foot incline in the Rocky Mountains as part of their training.
"The incline was the hardest thing I've ever done," Delaney said. "You're already at a pretty high altitude (to start with). (But) it's really rewarding when you get to the top and there's the most amazing view."
Her brother agreed.
"The incline was super rough. It's kind of brutal," Sam said. "(But it was) definitely satisfying to get to the top."
The siblings also agreed that it's been very beneficial to be able to rely on sports psychologist Marissa Norman, as part of the Junior HP program.
Norman, a former three-time conference champion in track and field at the University of Rhode Island, meets twice a month both with each team and also with each individual in the program.
"Being able to focus and concentrate, we (younger curlers) are not very good at that sometimes," Sam said. "The mental side of the game is a huge part."
"She's absolutely amazing," Delaney said of Norman. "I know (that sports psychology) is going to come into huge play throughout the season. Everybody needs to be talked to in a different way."
Delaney's Junior HP team also includes skip Susan Dudt, Sydney Mullaney and Rebecca Rodgers, who are all from the East Coast, and coach Susan Lang, who is from Saskatchewan.
Sam's team includes skip Chase Sinnett, Trevor Marquardt, Ethan Sampson, Eli Clawson and coach Keith Dropkin.
Sam's and Delaney's teams will both compete at the USA Curling Junior National Championships in Eau Claire, Wis., from Jan. 12-18. While there, they have the opportunity to qualify for the Junior World Championships from Feb. 15-22 in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
Junior HP teams that don't qualify for Junior Worlds will still get to compete in the Men's and Women's Nationals in Spokane, Wash., Feb. 8-15.