Team USA

Former Poynette High School standout Coleman Thurston has been selected to the United States Curling Association’s Men’s Junior High Performance Curling team for the 2020-2021 season.

Coleman Thurston, a two-time State High School Champion and Poynette High School graduate, has been selected as one of three new members to the United States Curling Association’s Men’s Junior High Performance Curling team for the 2020-2021 season.

Curling has been a long standing foundation in Columbia County. There are five local curling clubs in the county. Not only is it the foundation for Columbia county, it has been in Coleman Thurston’s DNA for three generations.

Coleman’s passion for the sport has grown at the local level. He grew up watching curling at both the Arlington and Poynette curling clubs watching his dad curl. He started playing leagues in the sixth grade and grew from a family pastime to national competitions.

Thurston joined his high school teammate Trevor Marquardt on a national junior competitive team in 2017. Together they earned two national silver medals for U18 National Championships and U21 National Championships. The duo split as Trevor joined the High Performance team in 2018. Since then, Coleman returned to national championship play for the last two years.

Thurston’s love for the sport goes beyond his own game. He has dedicated time teaching and mentoring younger curlers locally and regionally. When he is not on the ice, he’s often helping others. He joined Chaska Curling Center last summer as an assistant ice technician and learn-to-curl coach where he learned from some of the best ice makers in the country and taught new curlers the skills and passion for curling and has been a youth instructor for the US Junior Curling Camp for the past two years.

Coleman’s desire to succeed strengthened after taking second at the USA Curling Youth Olympic Trials in Denver in October of 2019. He curled with Portage local, Anna Tamboli, Lara Katz (Connecticut) and Marius Kleinas (Massachusetts). Losing on the last shot was “devastating beyond comprehension” according to Coleman, however “after the dust settled, it demonstrated my ability to compete at the highest level and fueled my drive to continue to improve.”

Mike Peplinski, a former 1998 Olympic Curler, has been Coleman’s competitive coach for the last two seasons.

“Many athletes are gifted with certain skills that make them desirable for top level teams,” Peplinski said. “Coleman just happens to be gifted with all the needed skills and attributes! He is a hard worker, he is dedicated, and willing to put aside other facets of life. And on top of that, he’s a great teammate and even better person! Coleman is a perfect fit for High Performance curling in the United States. He is committed to making himself the best he can mentally and physically to perform at high levels.”

In addition to on ice performance and training, Coleman has been a member of the High Performance Developmental pool for the past two years. This program involved strength, conditioning, nutrition and mental skills to succeed in competitive curling.

“I typically participate in over 20 hours/week of ice training, so adjusting to the HP schedule will be natural for me,” Thurston said. “I’m looking forward to balancing academic work at Minnesota State Mankato, curling with the local curling club in Mankato and participating in international events.”

Making the decision to join the High Performance team was not one that Coleman took lightly. The field of applicants was the highest it has been in recent years with over 50 curlers applying between men’s and women’s teams.

“It was a great honor to be selected out of a very competitive field of players, however leaving my former team, one of which being my cousin Jake, and coach was not something that I took lightly,” Thurston said. “We all had open and transparent conversations about our goals and future curling plans. Accepting this honor with the support of my teammates and coach made the transition easier and I can’t wait to join that crew as their competitor on the ice this year.”

The Men’s Junior High Performance team consists of eight players between two teams. Thurston will join the program with former teammates and competitors, including Trevor Marquardt (third year in the program), Youth Olympic Trials teammate Marius Kleinas (first year in the High Performance program), Danny Casper (New York), Sam Strause (Michigan), Riley Fenson (Minnesota) and Eli Clawson (Maryland).

“There is nothing that demonstrates the companionship of curling like going from teammates, to competitors to teammates again,” Thurston said. “I can’t wait to join Trevor, Marius and the rest of the team as our curling journey completes this competition cycle.”

The team of eight will put their histories aside as the Men’s Junior High Performance team has work to do. After the previous National Champion Men’s Junior team placed seventh at World Competition last year, the USA team will need to qualify for a spot at the World Championships at World B qualifiers that will take place in Finland in January 2021.

In order to represent the USA, six teams from around the country will play off in qualifiers in November and one team will proceed to battle to regain their spot for the 2021 Junior Curling World Championships in China in March. Not only will the team battle hard on the ice, they are facing program changes and safety concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Curling is actually a well-positioned sport to lay the foundation for competitive sports in the COVID-19 environment,” Thurston said. “There is already work being done to minimize risk locally, nationally and internationally with ice setup, rock sanitation and proper social distancing. Despite the efforts, the 2020-2021 season will evolve with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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