U of R curling keeps it cool at U Sports championships

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Last U of R sporting event of 2020? Brian Palashuk

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In a world becoming increasingly empty of sports, the University of Regina’s men’s and women’s curling teams competed at U Sports nationals in Portage La Prairie, March 11-14. While all other U Sports winter championships were cancelled, curling was allowed to conclude their competition; this decision was made because the athletes had already been competing and thus the risk of exposure had already been taken. For women’s team athlete Sarah Hoag, it was a different experience to compete amidst a pandemic.

“We joked and said we were the last sporting event in North America.”

The competitors and organizers both did their utmost to prevent infection, teams did not shake hands, awards were all sanitized and were not passed by hand, and all staff wore gloves to prevent infection. The venues were also sanitized to prevent infection. While these modifications altered play, for Hoag it was all about staying focused.

“We were just happy to be competing. We knew at that point we had been in contact with all the teams that flew in so it wouldn’t change the outcome as to whether we could be infected. We were just saying at that point, there’s nothing we can do, we can’t control a virus, it’s just our time to curl and focus on that instead.”

Curl they did. The women’s team of Taylor Stremick, Sarah Hoag, Krystal Englot and Stasia Wisniewski closed out their competition 2-5. They missed qualifying for playoffs, but for Hoag the record didn’t necessarily reflect their level of play.

“We had a lot of really close games and we went into extra ends in three of our games, which meant that it came down to the very last rock as to whether or not the other team would make or miss.”

“All three games we were playing people who have been world champs, have been to the Scotties. or have been to the Youth Olympics. or other major world events.”

Some of those world champions they played against include Scotties team member for Nova Scotia Kristin Clark of Dalhousie as well as World Championship competitors Mary Fay of Queens and Lindsey Burgess of Dalhousie. Competing against elite company is challenging, but Hoag’s young team held their own against some of Canada’s best.

“We couldn’t really be upset with ourselves this week because we played extremely well. The other teams just ended up making one or two more shots, or luckier shots; we ended up on the wrong side of the stick a lot of times. We are really happy with the way the week went.”

The men’s team also had a successful weekend. The roster of Giovanni Wright, Trey Chernoff, Jaedon Miller, and Ryan Grabarczyk won their first three games but ended up falling just short of playoff competition with a 3-4 record. Hoag credits part of the Cougars success to the tremendous support which came despite the travel difficulties.

“All of our parents came, and we had grandparents and lots of Cougars fans. That was really really nice – the Cougars’ parents are always the loudest in the stands, which I think helps a lot.”

The Regina curling teams have safely made it back home; however, other teams and families were affected with flight cancellations and rescheduling as well as potential quarantines. Teams from eastern Canada also received news of school cancellations and dorm closures throughout the competition.  After coming home Regina’s curlers, including Hoag, are in the same situation as the rest of the world’s athletes with limited training opportunities due to facility closures.

“With the weather being nicer we can do other training to prepare for next season. We are really looking forward to next season because of how close we were this season just to go out there again.”

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