It’s been a big year for curling in the Kootenays. In November, the biggest names of the sport descended upon both Cranbrook and Kimberley as the cities hosted Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling’s Tour Challenge and Wall Grain Mixed Doubles Championship, respectively.
Everyone from John Morris to Jennifer Jones threw rocks at local curling clubs, bringing out fans from all across the region. It was a whirlwind couple of weeks for curling enthusiasts who got to see the best players in the world in their own backyard.
In Kimberley, however, they get to see their own superstars whenever they please. After winning the BC High School Provincial Championships in March, the Kimberley Junior Girls Curling Team are a big deal in the local area.
Composed of skip Alysha Buchy, second Haylie Farquhar, third Kaila Buchy, and lead Arissa Toffolo, the squad will be in New Westminster from December 27 to January 1 competing in the 2017 BC Junior Curling Championships where they’ll be looking to make their community and ‘fans’ proud.
“The Kimberley Curling Club is so supportive and they treat us like we’re rock stars… like we’re the biggest names ever,” explained Farquhar with a laugh. “They treat us [so well].”
The girls have been playing together for the past four years, but have all been involved in the game for almost their entire lives.
“When I was little I used to just sit on the rocks and I probably didn’t start until I was seven,” Farquhar said. Her teammates all began playing when they were around five years old, so despite their youth, the team has the experience of seasoned veterans.
“Alysha and my parents are competitive curlers who play on a team together, so we spent a lot of time on the rink when we were young,” Kaila Buchy said, explaining that it was easy to develop a love for the sport in that environment. “Everybody [at the Kimberley Curling Club] are very close and get along well because we spend so much time together.”
The trip to New Westminster will be the second time the team is competing at the Junior Championships, and although they didn’t come out with the result they wanted last year, they are looking forward to another shot at it.
“Last year, we did okay, we lost a number [of draws] but also won a couple and had a lot of fun,” skip Alysha Buchy said. “[We feel more confident after the high school provincials though] knowing that we have the capability to win and we have momentum going into this tournament.”
Despite being a young team — Alysha is the oldest at 18 and the Junior category is for anyone under 20 years old — and coming from a relatively small community, Team Buchy is not intimidated by their competition in New West.
“I don’t think being [from a small town] is a disadvantage. I feel like the support we have and our tight-knit curling club is [actually] an advantage because we know each other so well,” Alysha explained.
Her father Tom, one of the girls’ coaches and an acclaimed local curler in his own right, added that while the team is somewhat disadvantaged because they have few chances to compete with others their own age, they’ve done everything in their power to make sure they aren’t lagging behind.
“A lot of the teams from the bigger centres have an opportunity to play more junior bonspiels and [be a part of] a junior circuit,” he said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to travel to those [tournaments] but the girls have committed to a Monday night practice and play Tuesday nights in an open league where they play against adults and get good competition.”
The Kimberley team is one of eight curling squads to qualify for the provincials and they will be competing against groups from Delta, Kamloops, Prince George, Victoria, New Westminster, Chilliwack, and Vernon.
Kimberley earned the right to represent the Kootenay region after a playdown against Creston where they won in a double knock-out with 10-2 and 10-3 victories.
“We knew going into [those games] that we would have to practice the way we would play at provincials,” Farquhar said. “We had to make smart calls, not give up on ourselves [and] really focus on being a team out there.”
As the only competition before New Westminster, the solid wins against Creston bode well for the tournament. If the team wins the provincial championship, they’ll have a chance to represent Kimberley nationally at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships.
“I hope [we can get there],” said Alysha. “You never know though, there are a lot of good teams so we’ll need a little luck.”
Whatever the outcome, however, the girls are mostly just looking forward to having fun and taking another step in their development as curlers.
“I’m really looking forward [to provincials] because our team has always been very close and it’s more time that we get to spend together,” Kaila Buchy said. “It’s more about gaining experience than anything because we’re a young team.
“If we’re able to pull through, that’s a bonus, but I’m [just] excited for good competition because that’s what curling is really all about.”
The girls kick off the tournament on December 27 at 7:30 p.m., playing Team McGillvray of Vernon at the Royal City Curling Club.