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Beyond Bounds: USA’s Junior Curling Champs Are Minnesotan-Led

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From left to right; Miranda Solem, Vicky Persinger, Karlie Koenig, Chelsea Solem and coach Mike Solem will represent the USA at the World Junior Curling Championships. (credit: Alejandro Lazo/lazphoto.com)

From left to right; Miranda Solem, Vicky Persinger, Karlie Koenig, Chelsea Solem and coach Mike Solem will represent the USA at the World Junior Curling Championships. (credit: Alejandro Lazo/lazphoto.com)

Miranda Solem has been missing a lot of school lately.

First, there was the week when the 21-year-old’s curling team won the Junior National Championship (for ages 21 and under) earlier this month in Wayland, Mass.

And now her squad’s prepping for a two-week voyage to Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 28 for the World Junior Curling Championships — also the future home of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

The all-star team is made up of the Solem sisters, who are from Minnesota, Wisconsonite Karlie Koenig and Vicky Persinger hails from Fairbanks, Ala. (credit: Alejandro Lazo/lazphoto.com)

The all-star team is made up of the Solem sisters, who are from Minnesota, Wisconsinite Karlie Koenig, and Vicky Persinger hails from Fairbanks, Ala. (credit: Alejandro Lazo/lazphoto.com)

“It’s been challenging, but I took a light load,” said the junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “My professors think it’s neat – curling in general for them is a whole new thing. They think it’s awesome.”

Also labeled under the awesome category — Team USA is a Minnesotan family affair, as Miranda is the third Solem on the roster.

Mike Solem, of Cohasset, Minn., has been coaching curling for nearly a decade and helms the squad. Not only is Miranda at the proverbial quarterback position (she’s the skip), but Mike’s younger daughter, 19-year-old Chelsea, is the lead.

The other two team members are 18-year-old Karlie Koenig of the Milwaukee area and Vicky Persinger, 20, hails all the way from Fairbanks, Ala.

That’s right — it’s most definitely an all-star team. Persinger even calls the Solem residence home for weeks at a time to maximize practice time.

For Mike and Miranda, this is the third year in a row they were in the national title game, but 2013 was the first time they came away with gold.

Here’s what you need to know about the faces you could very well see again at future Olympic Winter Games.

The girls begin the world competition  on Feb. 28 in Sochi, Russa. (credit: Alejandro Lazo/lazphoto.com)

The girls begin the world competition on Feb. 28 in Sochi, Russa. (credit: Alejandro Lazo/lazphoto.com)

Miranda might as well be known as Ms. Clutch
Miranda: We were down one in the 10th (the final end), and it was an all-out situation (at nationals in the championship).
It was one to tie and go to an extra end, or two for the win. With my last stone, we got two to win.

Up north, curling is most definitely cool – and virtually mainstream
Mike: The sport of curling is growing very fast around the U.S., especially in our region of northern Minnesota, as well as Wisconsin. There are numerous curling clubs accessible for kids. Grand Rapids has a curling club, Hibbing has a curling club, and Chisholm has one.

Miranda tried every other sport first
I golfed, played basketball, tennis, and volleyball.
I then remember taking home a flier about curling and thought “what is this strange sport?”
I thought it was the strangest, but most interesting sport I’ve ever tried. It’s definitely one of the most complex.
I’ve heard it described as “chess on ice” before, but it’s a whole different game. Each shot is a whole team shot — I think that’s really cool.

With USA inscribed on Miranda’s back at Worlds, there’s added pressure
Miranda: I obviously want to represent the U.S. well, and with that, we carry some responsibility. We would be thrilled to take home a medal. Making playoffs at Worlds is our goal. We want to make the U.S. proud.

After coaching curling for nearly a decade and finishing with a silver medal the last two years, coach Mike Solem's team took home the gold at nationals earlier this month. (credit: Alejandro Lazo/lazphoto.com)

After coaching curling for nearly a decade and finishing with a silver medal the last two years, coach Mike Solem’s team took home the gold at nationals earlier this month. (credit: Alejandro Lazo/lazphoto.com)

Alaskans are a different breed
Miranda: When it was -10 out earlier this winter, Persinger was wearing just a sweatshirt and we’re like “You’re crazy.”

The rock is 42 pounds — yes, 42 pounds
Mike: One thing I hear a lot is from those that try curling, they say, “This looked a lot easier than it actually is.”
In order to have a completed successful curling shot, you need to slide on the line of delivery on target, and throw the correct amount of weight. (He likened it to knowing the difference between hitting a 20-foot putt or 6-foot putt).

The girls have put in their time to win a title
Mike: They reached this level from numerous hours of hard work. They’re so good because of their character, patience and tenacity. They trust in each other.

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