WEST WINDSOR: Ross representing U.S. at Junior Worlds

WW-P North graduate part of curling team

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   Cameron Ross is at an international destination for spring break thanks to an interest in curling that’s been growing since he was a student at West Windsor-Plainsboro High North.
   Ross is in Ostersund, Sweden, for the World Junior Curling Championships that got underway Saturday and runs until Mar. 11. Ross is part of the team that is representing the United States after going unbeaten at nationals Feb. 4.
   ”I’m excited,” said Ross, who is a sophomore at Emerson College. “This is the first time any of us have been to worlds. As a team, we went to nationals last year. At nationals last year, we came in second. We were one game away.”
   This year, the five-person team dominated the national competition as expected. They lived up to their top seeding.
   ”We definitely really wanted it this year,” said Ross, who is the team’s alternate. “We were the favorites. We were the No. 1 seed. They ask the skips, who are like the captains, from each team to rank all the other teams. They take that data and make the rankings. We do a lot of preseason tournaments, and they were a lot of practice for us.”
   Tournaments have been critical in the development of the team, which hails from all over the East Coast.
   ”The team that I’m on is two brothers from Massachusetts, one kid who is in college in New York and the other lives in New Jersey,” Ross said. “I’m from New Jersey, but go to school in Boston. Because we’re all from the East Coast and our skip is from Massachusetts, who represent Massachusetts.
   ”We all practice individually. The two brothers and myself in Massachusetts, we’re all part of the same curling club. We participate in a league together on Tuesday nights. We all curl together once a week. We practice on our own when we can. As far as practicing as a team, we’ve had a practice or two on weekends. The way we practice is tournaments, and competing together. We compete against highly competitive teams.”
   The team had to qualify for nationals at playdowns. There were 10 teams from the East Coast that were divided into two pools of five teams. The top two teams advanced to nationals that were held in Madison, Wisc. Ross and his teammates tuned up for playdowns by winning two of the three bonspiels, or curling tournaments, that they entered, including an adult event in Fort Wayne, Ind. At nationals, they put that practice to good use to earn their first trip to worlds.
   ”It felt good,” Ross said. “We felt really prepared and confident. It was a little nerve-wracking because we were the expected team to win. Because we were the expected team, we had the targets on our backs. We felt pressure.
   ”Once we got the first win under our belts, we felt pretty confident. Because we were expected to win, because we were feeling good about the other tournaments, we found a way to stay confident without being overconfident.”
   They will try to bring the same confidence to the world championships. They’ve been preparing for this level for seven months, and it paid off as they opened the weekend by going 2-1 with wins over Italy and China and a loss to Canada.
   ”Over the summer, our team was asked to be in the High Performance program,” Ross said. “It’s a program developed to take the strongest programs and help them improve. We went to Green Bay, Wisc., and for a weekend, we had a camp. We practiced and got to work with a bunch of the national coaches. There were a lot of Olympic athletes there. We got to be with a bunch of them. Their goal is getting medals at world events. They kind of selected us because they thought we were a team that had potential to medal.”
   Ross can only imagine the thrill it would be to be a medalist at worlds. It’s the team’s only real aim.
   ”Our goal for worlds is to win a medal,” Ross said. “We want to keep winning. We don’t really know what to expect because none of us have been there before.
   ”The five of us have never been, but as part of going to worlds, we got assigned a team leader, Phill Drobnick. He was the coach of 2010 Winter Olympics men’s team. He’s been to the Olympics and Junior Worlds as a coach. He’ll be a pretty big asset to the team. He’s been to this same venue, which is good.”
   Ross’s team is looking to make the most of what will be its only junior worlds together because they will not all be under 21. Ross is 19 and has one year in juniors after this year. Two other college students will age out after this year, while two others are in high school and can continue to play juniors for years.
   ”I don’t know what’s going to happen as far as team stuff,” Ross said. “We haven’t talked about it. We’ll finish after worlds and talk about it.”
   Ross does a lot of the behind-the-scenes work for the team. He helps to organize their weekend road trips to bonspiels and keeps the team on an even keel through the highs and lows. It’s important with all of them juggling their academic demands on top of being the best Junior American curling team. They are missing two weeks for the worlds.
   ”The majority is over my spring break,” Ross said. “It’s definitely tough to stay on top of my stuff so I can be away and be caught up with school.”
   Ross took his midterms early so he could fly to Sweden early to prepare with his team. He is ready to perform if he’s called upon in the next week. Just being a part of the team representing the United States is an honor.
   ”I’m excited,” Ross said before flying out. “I do feel ready. I don’t know what to anticipate. I can’t wait to go. I think it’s going to be a great experience no matter what happens. Winning and playing well would make it an even better experience. I think we have the potential to be a pretty strong team.”