There is nothing quite like curling against teams at the international level, and to wear the Team Alberta jacket.
Such were the feelings and passions for the regional junior curling team, led by coach Charles Simoneau. They competed at the Optimist U18 Internationals in Edmonton during March 30 to April 3.
“I tried to live the moment and enjoy the experience while it lasted,” says Hailey Turcotte (second).
“I didn’t know if I’d ever wear an Alberta jacket again.”
Ashton Skrlik expresses similar sentiments.
“It was definitely a cool experience,” she says.
“You got to know a lot of good curlers. The feeling of this curling is really intense, and it was cool to know that you were going to be part of an international competition.”
For Meagan Aubin, the tournament was an eye opening experience, and she felt a strong bond with other curlers.
Prior to this last season, Aubin hadn’t curled competitively for two years and she is normally a league curler.
The Optimist U18 International is the highest level that Kayla Turcotte has ever played, too.
“It was a little nerve racking, but it was fun,” says Turcotte. “Optomist does a good job of promoting the sport to young curlers.”
They played five round robin games and lost two nail biters to Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.
They lost to Saskatchewan in an extra end on the last rock, and to New Brunswick by one point in the eighth end.
In the playoffs, they played against northern Ontario and Quebec, to finalize the world standings. They won fifth place overall in an extra end against Quebec.
It was a significant achievement for them, considering that their goal was for sixth place or better.
Besides the fans cheering them on, the support they received from others was substantial, including coach Charles Simoneau.
“We couldn’t have done it without him and his expertise,” says Kayla Skrlik.
Coach Simoneau is proud of his team for their efforts.
“The team was formed a little late in the season because of the players’ schedules, but all the players were very competitive with a strong will to win, which helped them execute our preparation and competition plan,” says Simoneau.
He also says, during the competition, the team got stronger as the week progressed, and they began playing better and better.
“In the last two games of our round robin pool, we had very exciting games against Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, which were nail biters and could have gone either way.
“With or one or two small breaks in the competition, I am sure we would have made it to the medal round where anything is possible and had the competition been longer I know we would have continued to get better.”
And he hopes the girls will look back fondly on this international event and carry that spirit into their future endeavours.
“All the players on the team are competitive and truly enjoy sport. However, there are very few opportunities in sport where you get to attend an international event.
“I hope our team truly enjoyed the event and were able to live in the moment. I also hope or wish that the girls have learned something about what it truly takes to compete at your best during these special opportunities.
“All the hard work, planning, and preparation will lead to great results when you follow your passions.”
However, 2016 is likely to be the last year for this international event.
According to the U18 website, the Optimist U18 Steering Committee has been working with Curling Canada for many years to establish a U18 national championship.
“It has been agreed upon at the executive level, and will be voted on by member associations at the AGM this summer, that Curling Canada will henceforth run a Canadian U18 Curling Championship. Upon approval, Curling Canada will take over organization of the event, which will become the national level U18 championship for all Canadian Provinces and Territories,” says the website.
“It is hopeful that a World U18 Curling Championship will also be approved shortly.”
The website also says, the Optimist U18 Curling Championship has been a much loved event, and has not only been a fantastic time for all the organizers and followers, but a truly awesome and memorable event for all the junior curlers who have participated.
“Everyone is sad to see it go, but we are happy to have under 18 curlers recognized at an official national level,” says the website.
“We are all excited to continue to provide opportunities for junior curlers to develop and have fun with the sport of curling!”
For more information, please go to their website at http://www.u18curling.ca.
Look for coverage of the Falher Curling Club this fall in the Smoky River Express.