Presented with the chance to represent their country on an international stage, Caleb and Hunter Clawson made sure they were ready to capitalize on the opportunity.
Traveling up to Connecticut earlier this month, along with teammates Cody Clouser and Cameron Vike, the Clawson brothers won a best two-out-of-three match against a team from the Nutmeg Curling Club (Bridgeport, Conn.) to secure themselves a spot in this year's U-18 Optimist International Curling Championships.
Their team of four will be one of just three squads from the United States at the competition, which takes place in British Columbia March 27-31.
"Anytime you get to put the USA on your jacket and represent your country, it's very special," team coach Eric Clawson said. "It's a unique opportunity to get this chance to play a round-robin format against teams from around the world."
Caleb, 15, and Hunter, 17, have been involved in curling for almost eight years now, spending the last three or four years on the competitive circuit. Based out of the Potomac Curling Club, they've traveled along the East Coast to participate in a variety of competitions.
None of those matches, however, rival the magnitude of what they'll see in Canada later this month.
Just getting a shot at earning their place in the field was a difficult process. The Clawsons, along with their partners Clouser and Vike from the Philadelphia Curling Club, had to initially submit an application just to be selected to take on the Nutmeg squad for the right to move on.
Once everything was approved, though, arrangements were made for the special two-out-of-three showdown.
A traditional curling game consists of eight ends. Each team has eight stones and points are scored for the stones resting closest to the center of the house (target) at the conclusion of each end, which is over when both teams have thrown all their stones.
This particular match, because it wasn't just one game, was spread out over two days.
"The three games are a little intimidating going into it," Caleb Clawson said. "Knowing you are going to be playing so many close together, you have to save your energy a little more."
In the end, they won the war of attrition.
Having a competitive background outside of curling may have worked to the Clawson brothers' advantage. Caleb, a sophomore at River Hill, was on the JV soccer team this past fall and Hunter, a junior, is a member of the Hawks' varsity lacrosse team this spring.
While Caleb says they both enjoy their other activities, he also points out that curling provides its own unique challenges.
"It's fun being such a major part of the team, being that it's only a four-person sport," Caleb said. "It requires a lot of intelligence to go along with the physical aspects of the game. I actually find it more challenging than some of the others sports I've tried."
Almost all junior curling competitions in the United States are combined into one age group (21-and-under). That means that even 12-year-old Eli Clawson, Caleb and Hunter's younger brother who also plays competitively, often finds himself competing against individuals much older than him.
"Eli is actually the skip, leading the way on his team that features high school kids … he's going to be very good," Eric said. "But often times he's competing against guys in college because that's the only format they have. You have to pay your dues and spend a lot of time early on getting beat pretty bad."
That's why this international competition, which features an 18-and-under age group, is such a great opportunity for Caleb and Hunter.
"This will be a much better gauge for them in terms of where they are in their development … it gives them a chance," Eric said.
Caleb says the goal on the upcoming trip to Canada is to have fun, but also to take care of business.
Latest Howard County
"We want to go up there and play our best and achieve the results that we know we're capable of achieving," he said. "Honestly, it would be nice to get a couple wins and finish as the top U.S. team. If we play well, that's definitely possible."