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John McCrae students off to provincial curling championship

'It will be fun to meet the other teams and see what tips they have, and to see how we compare to them,' says Grade 7 competitor
(from left to right) The John McCrae curling team: Helen Young, Graydon Smit, Lena Marquardt, and Carson Player.

Students from John McCrae Public School are ready to rock the ice at the Ontario Elementary School Curling Competition (OESCC).

Beginning today and running through the weekend, the competition will welcome elementary students from across the province to Wingham to see who's best at a sport that takes concentration, patience and teamwork.

The team of four hopes to sweep its way to a win.  

Grade 8 teacher Beth McEwen says the co-ed team has been positive, committed and enthusiastic about developing their curling skills for the competition. 

“They’ve been practicing since February, and they’ve been committed to their team by practicing after their league play on Sundays and every Tuesday after school,” McEwen said.

This is the first time students from John McCrae will compete in the provincial curling competition.

“The school doesn’t have a curling team. I curl in a Wednesday night league with one of the junior league coaches. I was asked if I had heard of the tournament,” McEwen said.

Asked if she was interested in putting a group together for the OESCC, McEwen was up for the task.

“The tournament requires that everyone on the team be from the same school. And it just so happened that there were three students from our school already in a curling league,” McEwen said.

“The coach said you could make this happen, and I thought well, this could be very exciting.”

McEwen reached out to students at the school. Three were already curling in a league at the Guelph Curling Club, and a fourth had previous experience on a league.

The John McCrae curling team includes Graydon Smit in Grade 8, Helen Young in Grade 7, Lena Marquardt in Grade 8 and Carson Player, also in Grade 8.

Smit will skip for the team and looks forward to competing against school squads from throughout the province.

“I love the strategy in curling. There’s a lot more to it than most people see,” Smit said.

“I’m really excited. We are guaranteed to play four games and if we keep winning, we will play more.”

Marquardt has been curling at the Guelph Curling Club since November, and says that not only has she learned a lot about the sport, she has enjoyed being part of the school team.

“I already knew Graydon. We went to the same school from Kindergarten to Grade 6, but it’s been really great getting to know Helen and Carson,” Marquardt said.

Carson says he also enjoys the team aspect, and sliding on the ice is always fun, quite different than playing a game of hockey.

McEwen says the team has worked together to improve their game play and strategy in preparation for the tournament.

"I've seen improved skill level, enthusiasm, and communication in terms of talking, working and strategizing as a team. It’s been great watching these students develop those human relationships as well as their skills. And now, they able to self reflect and identify what went wrong, and work to correct it,” McEwen said.

“Everyone has been very open-minded and willing to try things. I’m exited to see our team compete against all of the other teams.”

McEwen is grateful for all of the parental support she has received.

“I reached out to all the parents. The tournament takes place on two school days, but I have to teach. So, the parents have orchestrated and coordinated to get everyone to the tournament, McEwen said.

“And Graydon’s mother Natasha will coach them while they are there. It all just came together."

Team member Helen Young says she thrilled to be able to compete.

“I’m excited to be in curling competition because it sounds really cool. And I’ve learned a lot about curling at our practices,” Young said.  

“It will be fun to meet the other teams and see what tips they have, and to see how we compare to them.”

Although John McCrae Public School does not have an official curling team, McEwen hopes that in the future a team will develop and have opportunities to compete in the future.

“It all began with just a casual conversation, and now, here we are. Hopefully this will spark a curling team in the future,” she said.

 “It would be great to keep this going. That’s the hope.”