MAPLETON — The pep fest at Maple River School Friday afternoon was fairly typical, with inspirational talks, cheering and music.
But the rally for former Maple River graduate John Landsteiner was the first "Olympic Pep Fest" for the school. With hundreds of sixth- through12th-graders chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A.," the school sent their support for Landsteiner, who is with the Olympic curling team in Sochi.
Several family members and their friends attended the rally, including Landsteiner's parents, Steve and Cheryl.
Cheryl told the students they should pursue their dreams, even if it isn't going with a traditional activity.
"He took a lot guff as it wasn't really a high school sport," she said of her son's involvement in curling.
Landsteiner's parents, along with eight others, will be leaving Sunday for Sochi, a trip that will include 17 hours in the air and 17 hours of layovers at Frankfurt and Moscow, before arriving Tuesday morning Sochi time, Monday evening Minnesota time.
"We'll miss their first game on Monday," Cheryl said. "We'll stay through the Gold Medal games on the 21st and then take off the next day."
She and her husband have been keeping a close eye on the news of security threats.
"We're going with our eyes wide open, but we think they'll do a good job with security. We're traveling as a group, taking a Russian translator with us and we're housed close enough that we can do most things walking rather than using public transportation," she said. "And the team I think will be fine."
The Russian translator is a college sorority sister of the wife of John Schuster, the captain of Landsteiner's curling team.
She was born in Russia and lived in Minnesota and now in California. The group is paying her airfare and hotel in exchange for her language skills.
Cheryl said the U.S. Olympic Committee also has been helpful in keeping family members abreast of what to expect in Sochi.
"They email or conference call every day with tips on how to get around, what's difficult to do and what's easy."
The group is also hoping to benefit from being booked in an established hotel rather than one of the many new ones that have gone up. Those already in Sochi have reported epic problems with unfinished hotels and other infrastructure in Sochi.
"We're hoping an established business will be better," Cheryl said. "You don't want to be the first one in a new hotel when the 500 toilets flush all at once."
Maple River Supt. Dan Anderson said the community is excited.
"It's not every day you get to have an Olympian as a graduate," said Anderson, who was the high school principal when Landsteiner graduated in 2008.
"He's a great kid. It's a fun thing for the community."
Curling has always been strong in Mapleton. "It's a big Scottish community and the roots of curling come from that. It's certainly a big part of the community," Anderson said.
Indeed, the first curling stone was put down on the Maple River in 1857, a year before Minnesota became a state. And two other Mapleton natives just missed out on getting into past Olympics.
Landsteiner, 23, now of Duluth, began curling at a young age, picking up the sport from his dad, a longtime curler.
Landsteiner had a successful junior career in the sport, playing in national and international events, traveling around the U.S. as well as to Canada and Scotland. As a student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, he was curling three nights a week in the winter months.
After graduating, Landsteiner was beginning to wind down his curling time, but then Schuster, a veteran of two Olympic curling teams, asked Landsteiner to join his team to compete in money tournaments and take a run at national titles. He agreed and the team eventually qualified for the Olympics during a competition in Germany late last year.
USA men's curling TV schedule All times are Minnesota time: Monday, 4 p.m., CNBC, vs. Norway Tuesday, 4 a.m., USA Network, vs. China Wednesday, 2 a.m., NBC Sports Network, vs. Denmark Thursday, 4 a.m., USA Network, vs. Great Britain Friday, 2 a.m., NBC SPorts Network, vs. Germany Friday, 4 p.m., CNBC, vs. Russia Feb. 16, 2 a.m., NBC Sports Network, vs. Canada Feb. 16, 3 p.m., CNBC, vs Sweden Feb. 17, 4 a.m., USA Network, vs Switzerland Feb. 18, 4 p.m., CNBC, Tiebreaker matches Feb. 19, 1:30 p.m., MSNBC, semifinals Feb. 19, 4 p.m, CNBC, semifinals Feb. 21, 2 a.m., NBC Sports Network, bronze match Feb. 21, 4 p.m., CNBC, gold match