The Dawson Creek Curling Club’s U18 team had its final practice of the 2020-21 season last week. Despite not being allowed to play games, the team – skip Casey Patterson, third Blake Willich, second Quinn Farmer, and lead Kaden Mackrell – kept practicing until the very end of the season.
The four made up the club’s first U18 team in nine years (the three-time provincial champs coached by Jeff Ginter being the last team in 2012), and though it wasn’t an ideal year to start the revival of the junior program, the team and the club are hoping this could be the foundation of a competitive team for years to come.
“I’ve always wanted to have a curling team. It’s something I like to do, and I really want to go to provincials before I graduate,” said Patterson, who has one more year left of U18 eligibility after this season.
“Three of us played U15 last year, and we decided to give a U18 team a go. Our arena has been really helpful – we’ve been able to practice two times a week at a time that other curlers haven’t been able to.”
Mackrell, who is newer to the sport, joined the three older players to comprise this year’s team. Tiffany Hetenyi, who helped out with the U15 team a year ago, volunteered to coach this year’s team.
“It’s my first time coaching a team sport all the way through, but was definitely interesting. The players are like sponges, they absorb everything, even when I don’t think they do,” said Hetenyi.
“They learned a lot, and I’m very impressed with the improvements I’ve seen throughout the year.”
The team really appreciated having a full time coach, despite it being an atypical season.
“It’s not easy to be a coach right now, and it’s only volunteer. So we’re very thankful to have someone who was willing to take the time to teach us and help us improve,” Patterson said.
Willich, the team’s third, thinks the group could have given good teams a run for their money if games were allowed this year.
“I think we would have been a solid team, and would challenge tough competitors. We’ve definitely seen improvements,” said Willich.
The team never considered calling it quits early this season, and hopes to be back next year.
“It’s just something to do. Everything else has been closed, and this has been fun,” said Willich.
Dawson Creek was set to host the U18 provincial play-downs this year for the region. Club GM Jeff Ginter said there were two teams from Dawson Creek ready to enter, and thinks the Patterson rink would have had a good chance to make provincials.
“The nucleus of this group qualified for U15 provincials last year but those were cancelled due to (COVID-19). Having an opportunity to train, for them, has been pretty nice. It’s unfortunate they didn’t get to compete for provincials this year, but they should have a chance next year,” Ginter said.
Ginter said the club has the core in place for a competitive U18 girls team, and encourages any girls interested in playing competitive curling next season to contact the club.
“They can be new to curling, often athletes good at other sports make good curlers. As long as they have a competitive mindset I’d encourage them to come see us,” Ginter said.
As for this year’s team, Patterson made sure to thank everyone who supported the team this year and helped them make the most of the season.
“To our coaches, our (jacket sponsors), the club, we’re very thankful for all the support.”
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com