Just one week after St. Paul’s curling rink celebrated its 50th anniversary, the rink showed it was a bustling, happening place to be, as 16 teams converged at the rink for the annual junior curling bonspiel.
“We all love the game,” says 13-year-old Grace Fontaine, a Grade 8 student at Racette School on why so many kids were drawn to the Sunday event. Fontaine said she was introduced to the sport by her grandparents, who enjoyed watching it on television; once she tried it herself, she was hooked.
Junior curling coordinator Crystal St. Arnault explains that the junior program runs on Wednesdays, with 30 curlers in the junior program, getting their start in the game from Grades 4 and 5 on; several graduate and go on to play with their school teams in junior high. Curlers in the junior program and junior high programs are all invited to come out to the annual bonspiel, with junior curlers on the Pool A side playing four ends, and junior high students on the Pool B side playing six ends, and each team getting a guaranteed three games.
“It’s been going really well,” she says, looking out over the busy curling rink, full of spectators. “A lot of people are coming out to support the curlers, which is great.”
Eight junior teams were registered for the event, including five from the junior curling club and three teams from Mallaig, while on the junior high side, teams were registered from Racette, Myrnam and Glen Avon School.
A point system determined placement, with Racette School’s Blake Gratton, Dustin Dubrule, Dylan Jean and Kyle Yaremko coming in first on the Pool B side, and the team of Logan Gratton, Grace Fontaine, Justin St. Arnault and Gilles Michaud placing second.
Pool A saw Lexis St. Arnault, Chloe Jean, Megan Jean and Kaitlin Foote take first place, while the three-person team of Mia Ozga, Tanille Paradis and Saya Cardinal came second.
While everyone got prizes at the end of the day, four curlers were selected by coaches of the curling program for the Esther Naundorf Spirit Junior Curling Award, an award that is granted annually by Esther’s family, to honour her love of the sport. Her grandchildren Holly Naundorf, Lily Naundorf and Grace Fontaine were among the curlers at Sunday’s event.
The award is given to curlers with the program who come to the rink every week, eager to learn about the game, listen to their coaches, respect their teammates, the game of curling and the rules, enjoy learning, and encourage their teammates each week. Landon Bidlock, Mia Ozga, Tyson Kotowich and Chloe Jean were honoured with the award this year, and received $50 to be put towards curling gear and accessories.
Coming off the rink after a win, Lexis St. Arnault, Megan Jean, and Chloe Jean are full of high spirits, with Lexis saying, “It’s a fun sport.”
“I like sweeping. I like everything,” adds Chloe. She says at first, her parents – who both play the game – forced her to play. But sticking with it was her decision.
“They asked me if I liked it and I wanted to keep playing. I said yes,” she says.
Before this reporter leaves the rink, Lexis and Megan run to the door to add one more piece of information. With a shy grin, they give a shout out to their respective parents and curling coaches, Crystal St. Arnault and Gerry Jean – “We have one more thing to say – We like our coaches!”