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Junior curling academy celebrates another successful year

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The Dauphin Junior Curling Academy ended another successful season with its annual year-end bonspiel, Friday and Saturday at the Parkland Recreation Complex curling rink.
This year’s bonspiel saw 17 teams participating, 10 in the 14U age group and seven in the 10U age group.
First event winners in the 14U group was the team of skip Hunter Dundas, third Brett Rowe, second, Ethan Marshall and lead Matthew Penner. They defeated the Cassidy Dundas team in the final.
In the 10U bonspiel, first event winners were skip Josh Beyette, third Jordan Height, second Brandon Wood and lead Garrett Urichen. They defeated the Nikki Slyziuk team in the final.
Academy organizer Gord Wood said this year’s program involved students in Grades 1 to 5, with between 35 and 40 students participating.
This year was a bit of a transition year, Wood said, because the Grade 6 students involved in the program have now joined the curling program at MacKenzie Middle School.
“So one less grade level for the junior curlers. It used to be Grade 1 to 6 and now it’s transitioned to Grade 1 to 5. And now the MacKenzie program is a little bigger with the Grade 6s joining them,” he said.
Overall, the year went well. The biggest thing of note, Wood said, is some of the high school curlers are starting to become coaches in the junior program.
“So we’re seeing a nice transition of kids that are now giving back to the program. That was our hope all along, that these kids that are a little older would start to do some coaching and help out with the program,” he said.
And with the success some of the high school curlers have experienced, they also serve as role models for their young charges.
“They’re the ones that they look up to. It’s nice to see. And, of course, a lot of our curlers are going on to compete at higher levels. The high school provincials. And we’ve got teams from the U18 and U15 going on to the Manitoba (Winter) Games,” Wood said.
“So every year, there’s a crop of Parkland kids that go on to the U21 provincials, now so that’s good. It nice to see its growing and flowering a little bit here as they get older.”
Organizers will use events such as the Manitoba Winter Games as an example of where the sport can take you.
Wood said their hope is that the young curlers will feed into the high performance program in Dauphin, which is affiliated with Curl Manitoba.
“It’s talked about quite a bit. The U15 was a new thing this year, so that’s nice we’re seeing some growth that way. And we’re starting to see some of those even younger teams play at a competitive level,” he said.
“We use that as a motivator for these kids to create teams and also to strive to play at the higher levels. And I think our teams that go this year are going to be fairly competitive when they’re there, as well.”
The academy, Wood said, allows students to build their fundamentals and gives them an understanding of the game. The students are taking to the sport so well, he added, that the younger curlers are almost self-sufficient.
“They understand the game. They know the rules. They know where they’re supposed to be in position. And they’re thinking about strategy already,” he said.
“It’s funny to watch them. Even though they still need that supervision, they have such a good understanding of the game that they can almost play it on their own, which is really neat to see.”
A high performance ID camp will be held, Feb. 27, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., for any curlers interested in playing at a higher level.
“That’s the next level. Once they get to 12 year old, you’re really honing their skills and they get a stronger skill set, understanding of the game, develop their strategy and work towards that competitive stream of the sport.”

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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