Youth curlers made history in the Harbour City this week.
Curl B.C.’s inaugural U18 championships were held Thursday through Sunday at the Nanaimo Curling Centre and Langley’s Tyler Tardi and Coquitlam’s Heather Drexel were the winning skips.
Tardi said it was an exciting tournament and one he’ll remember and said he likes the idea of being B.C.’s first-ever U18 champ.
“It’s a pretty good feeling. I’ll take that any day,” Tardi said. “We got a little fortunate with the age restriction change, so we kind of put [in a team] for fun, but as soon as it started we got a little more competitive.”
Tardi and third Sterling Middleton had competed at worlds earlier this season and were the pre-tournament favourites in Nanaimo. In the final, they won gold in convincing fashion, defeating Vernon’s Adam Raber 7-3.
Middleton said his team played “full throttle” in the final, but also had some early luck with the opponent missing on shots.
“Once we had our lead, we were just trying to keep things clean and take our opportunities when they were there and I think we did a pretty good job doing that,” he said.
Drexel defeated Prince George’s Carly Connor 5-2 in the girls’ final.
“This was the best we’ve played all weekend; this was definitely our best game,” Drexel said.
She and teammates shed tears after sharing their third provincial championship, having previously won twice at the juvenile level.
“Every time it’s just as emotional, it’s just as exciting,” she said.
Everly Royea, the team’s third, said her rink played through illness and injury to win.
“We held it together and I’m really proud of us for pulling through,” she said. “This means a lot and I really think with the way we played this weekend, we deserved it.”
There was no Nanaimo entry at the tournament, so the de facto home team was skipped by Port Alberni’s Rebecca Douglas and included Parksville’s Lauren Onushko, Michaela Morrill and Libby Elliott, along with Victoria’s Julia Kresse. That group earned bronze Sunday, winning 5-4 against a Delta rink skipped by Sarah Daniels.
Elliott said her team played really well in its final game.
“We stepped up our level a lot and we made pretty much all of our shots, which was really good,” she said.
Team Douglas knew that it was in tough against Team Daniels, one of the pre-tournament favourites.
“Going into it, we just had to keep it clean and keep it open, otherwise we could get into too much trouble, but I think we did pretty well sticking to that plan,” Douglas said.
Not everything went to plan, though – Douglas was sick Sunday and wasn’t able to go at game time and so Kresse threw skip stones for the first four ends.
“At the beginning we were a bit nervous, so we missed a few, but then we got our confidence back and played nine out of 10 perfect,” Onushko said.
Successfully utilizing all five members of the team doesn’t always happen, especially with a medal on the line, but the Island girls made it work. Onushko said having five players allowed the group to mix things around and try different strategies this season.
“Outside of curling we bonded as friends and as a team,” she said.
Onushko, who will now age up from the U18 division, said her team had targeted a top-three finish and feels like it achieved a goal.
“It’s really a good accomplishment, because we were in our first year playing as a team, we just got put together and we played our best,” she said.
Douglas said the team played amazingly.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” the skip said. “[Bronze] is more than I could imagine – even being in the top four was amazing.”
Curlers praised the ice and the whole experience of U18 provincials.
“The Nanaimo Curling Centre is a fantastic facility,” Middleton said. “It has a really nice curling club feel, the host committee and volunteers, everyone was very positive, very helpful the whole week.”
Elliott said there was a really good atmosphere at the club.
“It was very positive,” she said. “I’ve never been to one of these before and it was amazing to experience.”