Lynnwood curling team wins men's national championship

Photo courtesy Patti Killins
Team Clark members Philip Tilker, Darren Lehto, Sean Beighton and Brady Clark (left to right).

Lynnwood’s Brady Clark has added another gold medal to his tally but this one has different words on it.

The nine-time U.S. mixed champion and three-time U.S. mixed doubles champion, led his team to a 6-5 win over Minnesota’s Tyler George Feb. 16 to win the 2013 USA Curling National Championships.

“I can compare it probably to the first time we won our mixed nationals and the first time we won our mixed doubles to go to the worlds. Those are two of my biggest highlights. The first time you win something it’s hard to compare,” Clark said. “All that work and preparation that goes into trying to win and to be able to finish it off is an amazing feeling. We trained hard. We said all year it would be great to go to Worlds but we wanted to earn our right to get to the Olympic Trials.”

This is the first men’s national title win for Clark (Lynnwood) and teammates Sean Beighton, Darren Lehto and Philip Tilker (all of Seattle). The team’s alternate is Steve Lundeen (Seattle). They are coached by Ken Trask (Seattle).

“I’m speechless. This was the goal at the beginning of the season,” said Beighton, who won the junior national title in 2010. “We all put a ton on the line. Our families were all very supportive of our early touring schedule and we forked out a ton of money out of our own pockets because we knew this was it or bust. We accomplished our goal and I couldn’t feel better right now. This win is pretty sweet.”

The Clark rink is the first team from Seattle since 2004 to win the national championship.

“It’s going to be incredible playing in Victoria,” Clark said about the upcoming World Championship. “The support we saw from our club and people across the country and friends and family was amazing. To be able to go to a Worlds where we will be able to draw from our club, who knows maybe we’ll have a cheering section like some of the teams did here at the Nationals.”

“Our whole goal was to at least get to the [Page playoff] 1-2 game so we could get that Olympic [Trials] spot so this was kind of our gravy we still wanted,” said Tilker, 35. “We started strong and hit a little slump, but finished strong. Brady played great. He picked us up in this game and then we finally showed up to play and gave him some help.”

With the win Team Clark will now represent the U.S. at the 2013 Ford World Men’s Championship March 30-April 7 in Victoria, British Columbia. The team also is qualified for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Fargo, N.D., on Nov. 10-17. George (Duluth, Minn.) and teammates Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Rich Ruohonen (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Colin Hufman (Seattle) also have secured a spot in the Trials, which will take place at Scheels Arena, host site of the 2011 Nationals.

“It feels kind of cool. It really hasn’t sunk in. It definitely feels a little better to win, than to lose,” said Lehto who was runner-up at the 2003 Nationals. “It’s awesome it will be in Victoria. We’ll have lots of friends and family to come up.”

After the first end was blanked, Team George had control of the second end and looked poised to potentially score four points until Clark squeezed his stone past the guards and made a double takeout. Plys followed him down the path but on his takeout a stone jammed and he settled for a single instead. The Clark rink would be forced to a single as well in the third end.

Clark tried to draw into the four-foot for a second point but with 10 other stones in the house, he needed it to curl more to tuck in for the second point. The teams exchanged singles again over the fourth and fifth ends with Clark trying to sneak around the guards to the other side of the four-foot but couldn’t curl it in close enough to grab two. Team Clark stole a single in the sixth end as the team piled the stones around the four-foot, forcing Plys to throw a double takeout, which left one Clark rock left in the house. In the seventh end, Plys attempted a tough angle raise double takeout but only got one out, once again giving Team Clark a steal of one.

“We had three ends set up for two or more. The first end we had the house split and Tyler rolled out on his second shot, I think. In the second end, we’re laying five at one point and Chris’s rock came up too far. We were guaranteed at least two or three, maybe more and that was a game changer,” said Ruohonen, who won the national title in 2008 with Craig Brown. “Then in the fourth, same thing, we should have had two. It could have been over in the first four ends. Hats off to them, they made a lot of great shots.”

Clark’s final stone in the eighth end was a bit heavy and he left it for ripe picking for Plys to score three and take the lead. In the final end George missed a takeout on the lone Clark stone in the rings, which allowed Clark to draw around the guard and set a second stone in the rings. Plys just missed the double takeout with his final stone, removing just one. That left Clark with a takeout for the win.


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