UW-Eau Claire sophomore to compete in 2017 World Junior Curling Championship
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Curling has long been a vital part of Jenna Burchesky’s life, and now her dream of wearing ‘USA’ on her back will come true
Balancing school with family and friends can be difficult for the average college student.
For sophomore organizational communications student Jenna Burchesky, this became even more challenging after her competitive curling team earned a spot in the 2017 World Junior Curling Championships.
“I was almost stunned,” Burchesky said. “I don’t even know what my reaction was. I was hugging my team and my coach … My sweatshirt was wet from crying. I was just like ‘I’m covered in tears right now and none of them are my own.’”
Taking place Feb. 16-26 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, The World Championships consists of 10 teams from different countries competing for the title of best in the world. Burchesky said she doesn’t know much about the other countries she’ll be competing against but noted that Canada will be tough competition.
Being able to represent her country in the World Championships and wear ‘USA’ on her back, Burchesky said is a “dream come true.”
“I’ve waited years to be able to tell people that I’m on Team USA, and it’s amazing to be able to finally say that.” Burchesky said. “I’m really excited to be able to represent my country.”
Although Burchesky has her eyes set on a gold medal, she said she’s looking forward to being able to improve as a player and become acquainted with players from the other countries. But what she’s most nervous for isn’t the competition itself.
“I’m most nervous about the culture shock,” Burchesky said. “I’ve never been to Asia before, so I don’t know really know what to expect once I get there, but I’m really excited to see everything and be able to learn more about the culture.”
The road to get where she is today all began with family tradition.
Her grandfather was the first curler in the family. He passed his love for the sport on to Burchesky’s father, who then passed it on to his own children.
“It’s definitely one of the major links in my family,” Burchesky said, adding that there have been occasions where her family members have played together on a team.
Family has remained a large support system in Burchesky’s curling career, traveling to every competition, helping out with finances and getting her to where she is today, she said.
Her father specifically, Burchesky said, is her biggest role model.
“He’s definitely been my inspiration to get to the higher levels,” Burchesky said. “I’ve been in two gold-medal games now, and every time that I’ve been out on the ice in my gold medal game I’ve definitely been thinking about my dad, just making my dad happy and winning that gold medal.”
Originally from Walpole, Massachusetts, Burchesky said she moved to Eau Claire after high school to be closer to her competitive team, which is based out of Blaine, Minnesota.
On the East Coast, there aren’t high school curling teams like in the Midwest, Burchesky said. This allowed her to reach out to more competitive teams in her youth.
“Even when I was younger, I was playing with girls from all over the country: Wisconsin, Maryland, New Jersey, just kind of everywhere,” Burchesky said.
Burchesky also played with adults when she was young at Broomstones Curling Club outside of Wayland, Massachusetts, a place that allowed her to further immerse herself in the sport.
When it was time to look at colleges, Burchesky said she had three tours set up for schools in the Midwest, including one for UW-Eau Claire. After seeing the campus, she said she knew immediately it was where she wanted to attend school.
“I saw Eau Claire, I had told my mom, ‘I don’t even need to see the other two, this is where I’m going,’” Burchesky said.
At UW-Eau Claire, Burchesky, with the help of student Alyson Wiedenbeck, would go on to revive the school’s dormant Curling Club in March 2016. The women hold the positions of Vice President and President of the Club, respectively.
In addition, Burchesky resides on the Board of Directors at the Eau Claire Curling Club, where she competes in a league on Monday nights.
Curling takes up about 75 percent of her life, Burchesky said, and while she’s able to make time for friends and family, balancing it with school has been difficult.
“It’s definitely been a challenge to do that,” Burchesky said. “With Worlds coming up I have spoken with all of my professors and they have been really supportive in helping me get to worlds and still be able to continue my education.”
Currently she is taking only 10 credits, but she plans to make up the lost credits by taking classes over the summer to graduate in four years. This light credit load is due in part to Burchesky’s demanding training schedule, she said.
“I practice just about every other the day,” Burchesky said. “On weekends I drive to Minnesota to practice with my team. I’m in the gym on the days that I’m not on the ice. I’m constantly doing things to prepare myself for the competition to keep working forward.”
Now her hard work will pay off in her first trip to compete in the World Championships.
“Honestly, everything is rewarding about it,” Burchesky said. “It’s so much fun. I’ve fallen in love with the sport, so I just love to compete anywhere I can, and to be able to compete at this higher level with some of my best friends is very rewarding.”
Despite all of her success, Burchesky has remained humble, Wiedenbeck said.
“It’s so amazing how humble she is. She’s so modest,” Wiedenbeck said. “It was really fascinating as I got to knew her to see how absolutely humble she is about all of her success and everything she’s balancing at once.”
Burchesky’s dream is to one day make it to the Olympics. But before that happens, she said, she would like to make a few more visits to the World Championships.
“I think that going to Worlds is going to bring my team closer together than we’ve ever been,” Burchesky said, “and I’m really excited to go on this journey with some of my closest friends.”