Providing young curlers from Newfoundland and Labrador with a positive experience is something Sherri McNeil believes the Caribou Curling Club is ready to deliver.
The Stephenville curling facility is the venue for the 2018 provincial U16 and U18 male and female curling championships Feb. 14-18 in the airport town.
A beehive of activity is expected with 22 teams throwing stones with hopes of winning a provincial crown, while the entries in the U18 division will be looking to earn the right to represent the Newfoundland and Labrador Curling Association at the 2018 national junior curling championships.
McNeil is a director-at-large for the provincial curling association who is also the coach for Stephenville’s Sarah McNeil-Lamswood foursome in the U18 female bracket.
She has been impressed with the growth of the game in the minor rinks when she sees 22 teams registered for the second year in a row, but she also believes there will be some pretty good curlers in the mix when the first rock is thrown on Wednesday.
According to McNeil, there’s a few teams entered who are getting their first taste of competitive curling and have their own team goals and there are several teams back for the second time.
However, she said, with a trip to the nationals on the line in the U18 age bracket she really thinks curling fans will be treated to some high-calibre shot making with a number of teams capable of going all the way.
“It’s a great event because people love watching the kids play,” McNeil said. “The kids know what they are doing. They’ve been practicing all year for this so you’re going to see some good games and you’re going to see good shot making.”
The host Caribou Curling Club will have two teams entered in both the U16 boys and girls divisions and single entries in the U18 female and U18 male.
Corner Brook Curling Club will have two teams entered in the U18 female tournament and Carol Curling Club of Labrador is sending two teams with hopes of winning gold in the U16 male bracket.
There will be five draws daily on the four-sheet curling facility with action starting on Wednesday and champions being declared on Sunday.
Every major event requires the help of volunteers and McNeil is relieved to know there is a lot of support in place to make it an enjoyable experience for all the players, coaches and officials.
“There’s a big group of parents who are eager to help and a lot of them it’s the first time being involved that we’ve been hosting,” she said. “They are eager to help. They want to put off a nice tournament. They are eager to do a lot to make people feel at home.”