Year-end bonspiels might well be signalling the pending closure of the 2018-2019 curling season, but these recent events have not spelled an end to some very positive news to be shared on a local front in the sport.
On Tuesday, Curling Canada announced that Sudbury has been awarded the 2020 Canadian Under-18 Boys and Girls Curling Championships, with the national bonspiel to be staged at both the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Compex, as well as the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club.
The competition, the fourth of its kind since inception in 2017, will run from April 21-262, 2020, bringing together 28 of the top youth curling teams in the country (14 in both the boys and girls draw).
Locals have excelled in making their mark in the U18 nationals to date, with Curl Sudbury enjoying a clean sweep in the inaugural year of the championship (Girls Gold - Kira Brunton, Kate Sherry, Sydnie Stinson, Jessica Leonard; Boys Gold - Jake Horgan, Max Cull, Nicholas Bissonnette, Shane Robinson) and the Idylwylde foursome of Bella Croisier, Jamie Smith, Piper Croisier and Lauren Rajala recently adding their name to that list, walking away with the hardware in Sherwood Park (Alberta).
Two-time Canadian University champion Jennifer Gates and long-time volunteer Barbara Nott will co-chair the event, which can now be added to the many high profile curling bonspiels to be hosted in Sudbury: Tim Horton's Brier (1953, 1983), Scotties Tournament of Hearts (2001), Canadian Juniors (1990), Canadian Seniors (1973) and the Canadian Mixed Championships (2012).
Speaking of Team Croisier, the crew is now safely back home after an incredibly busy sequence in 2019, one which would see the girls also lay claim to gold medals at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.
"We are going to take a few weeks to ourselves and plan for next season," said skip Bella Croisier last week. "We are done for the season now, so we're into off-season mode."
Thankfully, the local quartet were more than a little cognizant of the reality of the hectic schedule they could possibly encounter, if all went well.
"During the season, I think we had a good ratio set-up of competition and down time," said Croisier. "We are strong believers that you need to take that mental time off. We don't want to get sick of each other."
With three of the four team members eligible to represent Northern Ontario again on home ice next spring (Jamie Smith ages out of the U18 division), Croisier looked back on a title run that would see the NOCA champs run off nine straight wins after dropping a first draw game to Alberta (8-6).
In the mind of the last rock thrower, there wasn't a clear-cut TSN turning point for her squad, though she was pleased with a post round robin upswing.
"I don't think there was a specific moment," said Croisier. "We were bouncing back and forth between the arena and the club, so there wasn't much of a chance to get our consistency. I think we really felt it click when we got on to the arena ice and were able to stay there for the remainder of the playoffs, after the first double knockout game."
Either way, it marked the end of an incredible campaign for Team Croisier.
"As a whole, it's been a fabulous season," said the soon-to-be graduate of Marymount Academy. "If I was to give it a grade, it's obviously an 'A++'. We're national champions and you can't really ask for much more than that."
As for the lineup that will look to defend Northern Ontario honours next year, Croisier noted that there is still a little suspense in the air.
"We'll be making team announcements in the next couple of weeks," she said. "We want to let the wave of another gold wash over us for a bit."
That wave might be reaching tidal dimensions for Lauren Rajala, however. The senior at Lasalle Secondary School was named, on Wednesday, to the Curling Canada entry to the Youth Winter Olympics taking place from January 9th to the 22nd (2020) in Champéry, Switzerland.
Rajala will be joined on the team by Emily Deschenes (Greely, ON), Jaedon Nauert (Winnipeg, MB) and Nathan Young (Torbay, NFLD).
According to the Curling Canada media release, athletes were assessed based on their curling skill, community leadership and academic achievement, and were also asked to submit a 500-word essay outlining why they wanted to compete in the Youth Winter Olympics.
A 16 year-old grade 11 student at Lasalle, Rajala is carrying a 95% average while balancing her curling demands on the side. A total of twenty-four countries are expected to send mixed teams to the 2020 Youth Winter Olympics.