Milton curler headed to Sweden
Not 14-year-old Jenna Haag.
When Haag, a Milton High School freshman, accepted an invitation to join the “Spatola Rink” curling team the day before Thanksgiving, she didn’t know a ticket to represent the United States in the World Junior Championships in Sweden was in her future.
Haag and her Spatola Rink teammates will fly to Sweden on Wednesday. The Junior Worlds are scheduled for March 1-8 in Ostersund, Sweden.
The Spatola Rink, so named for “skip” Nina Spatola, qualified for Worlds by defeating Alex Carlson’s Minnesota team, 6-4, for the 2008 U.S. Junior Nationals gold medal the first week in February.
“I’m still kind of in shock,” Haag said. “I wasn’t expecting this.’’
Haag has been curling since she was 6. She competes in Madison and practices at Janesville’s Blackhawk Curling Club. Haag is the daughter of Jim and Connie Haag of Milton.
Spatola said her team’s vice-skip, Becca Hamilton, who curled with Haag and was big fan of the Milton standout.
“Jenna came well-recommended,” Spatola said. “I really value Becca’s opinion.”
Haag didn’t hesitate when she was asked to play for Spatola.
“I didn’t have to think about curling competitively,” Haag said.
Haag is the lead for Spatola. A curling team consists of a lead, a second, a vice and a skip. Players take turns “throwing” a 42-pound stone down a 146-foot ice sheet, trying to land their stones in the target area.
“Jenna knows how to throw with a draw,” said Spatola, who directs the team in her role as skip.. “Her draw is amazing. She sets up our game like we want.’’
Haag will be one of the youngest competitors in Sweden. Players can be as old as 21 to compete on the junior level.
Haag’s teammates are Hamilton (McFarland), Karlie Koenig (Waukesha) and Anna Plys (Duluth, Minn).
Spatola, a sophomore nursing student at Edgewood College in Madison, is making her second trip to Worlds. She won a junior title in 2006 and finished 10th at the World Junior Championships in Korea that year.
“It was my first experience, and I was very overwhelmed,” Spatola said. “My experience should help us this time.’’
Since Spatola has gained valuable experience for her first trip to Worlds, she believes that she can pass it along the other members.
Spatola said she is not worried about Haag’s youth.
“Jenna has is more mature than her age,” Spatola said. “I think that she will handle the pressure.’’
While she admittedly is excited, Haag said she can maintain composure at Worlds.
“I’m ready,” Haag said. “It’s going to be different, but I’m ready.’’