The junior girls’ curling team has their sights set high this year, but it will take a lot of hard work to get there.
Katherine Lenoir, Julie Rowe, Elizabeth Sperry, Ashley Rowe and Amanda Roach are set to head to the territorial championships in Fort Smith next month, and then — hopefully — on to nationals in Newfoundland after that.
Unlike other team sports in town, the girls’ curling team, with athletes ranging from 12 to 18 years old, got to pick each other. While three of the five have played together for years, Lenoir and Julie are relatively new additions.
“It’s great to get to really know your team over time,” said Roach. “We formed a really close bond.”
Ashley agreed and noted that the bond is helpful in competitive situations as well.
“We know each other’s comfort zones really well and we play as a team really naturally,” she said.
Girls’ coach Miranda Orr said that close relationship can lead to tension, but that overall it helped them be a stronger team. Orr said the teaching experience she has helps her deal with these kinds of situations and the coaching clinic she and her husband, Chad, attended in October gave her tools to better coach curling.
“They approached us,” she said. “I was their teacher last year, and this year, they came to us and asked us to coach them.”
While the wide range of ages on the team is unusual for junior sports, Chad sees it as an advantage to the program overall. As players age out, they are replaced by curlers coming up the ranks. Incidentally, when the girls hit 19, they can join the adult leagues which have also seen something of a surge in popularity this year. Orr said there are 15 teams in the corporate league and 11 in the open category. Already, the girls are playing in the Tuesday night league and remaining competitive.
They’re also joined by more and more players.
“After a bit of a dip in recent years, curling is seeing a big comeback in Hay River,” said Chad. “There are 31 kids in junior curling this year. That’s just insane.”
“It just goes to show that it’s a great sport for everyone,” he said. “From the grassroots level to really competitive teams, Hay River has got it all.”
Although the ranks of local curlers are swelling, there is always room for more.
“Join curling!” said Lenoir laughing. “We throw rocks at houses.”