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Kyle Doering, Shannon Birchard win junior curling championships

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West Kildonan’s Kyle Doering is the 2012 Manitoba junior men’s curling champion and St. Vital’s Shannon Birchard is the 2012 Manitoba junior women’s curling champion.

Doering stunned previously undefeated Joey Witherspoon of Fort Rouge 9-3 in Monday afternoon’s final at West Kildonan Curling Club to earn the right, along with Birchard, to represent Manitoba at next month’s Canadian Juniors in Napanee, Ont.

"We always thought it was a possibility but it was a longshot," Doering said after the game. "Our goal coming into the week was just to play well - the exact same goal as last year - and really just qualify for the playoffs.

"That was our goal. To win the whole thing is just unbelievable, and at our home club as well. It’s unreal."

Doering, 16, was supported in the final by third Colton Lott, 16, second Kyle Kurz, 16, and lead Lucas Van Den Bosch, 17.

Kurz - the son of former Manitoba and Canadian curling champion Lynn Fallis-Kurz - was inserted into the team’s lineup only on Sunday in place of regular team member Derek Oryniak. Oryniak played the start of the event with Doering but then had to leave early to travel to Innsbruck, Austria, where he is representing Canada in mixed curling this coming week at the Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Kurz flew home from a Mexican vacation early Sunday morning and then promptly won five straight games with Doering as the team took the roundabout route to the final through a tiebreaker game and the two versus two page playoff.

"There was so much pressure. I didn’t want to let them down," Kurz said. "It was a long journey."

The final result Monday was a major upset. Witherspoon is a previous provincial champion who lost the Canadian junior final in 2010, and he looked every bit the top seed this week as he went a perfect 8-0 to reach the final.

But Doering would not be denied at his home club. Already leading 3-2, Doering stole three in the sixth end to seal the deal when Witherspoon - attempting a long double-raised takeout for two - clipped his own stone out of the house and yielded the three on a measure.

"He has one locked up and if I throw that away, we go down 4-2," Witherspoon explained. "I didn’t even think we could do that for him... That’s a killer but that’s part of the game. I was going for it and it didn’t work out...

"I honestly didn’t see the danger. I’m going to throw that every time. I wouldn’t take it back."

Witherspoon was one of two first seeds to lose in Monday’s provincial finals. At the provincial junior women's curling championship in Minnedosa, top seed Alyssa Vandepoele of Victoria gave up three in the first end en route to an 8-3 defeat to Birchard.

"It’s amazing," said Birchard, a 17-year-old St. John’s Ravenscourt student. "We went into the game really relaxed, and getting that lead was huge for us. That really was a key."

Birchard was the second seed in the field and had qualified directly for the final with a win in the one versus one game earlier Monday, while Vandepoele needed two tiebreaker wins on Sunday and then wins in the two versus two game and the semi-final on Monday just to get to play Birchard.

The hard-luck Vandepoele, who also lost provincial finals in 2009 and 2011, offered no excuses Monday night, however.

"To be honest, it was just the first end. We gave up three and after that it was a great game," Vandepoele said. "Without that first end, I think it would have been a great game with a lot of great throws. But they played great. I’m happy for them."

Vandepoele is 19 and has one more year of junior eligibility remaining.

Birchard was supported by a pair of former Vandepoele teammates in third Selena Kaatz and second Kristin MacCuish, as well as former Manitoba junior champion (with Breanne Meakin in 2010) Mariah Mondor.

The wealth of finals experience on the rest of her team settled Birchard, who was playing in her first.

"They knew what to do," Birchard said. "We just tried to stay as relaxed as possible. We knew that was how we would be able to play our best."

Birchard’s victory came one day after her brother, Daniel Birchard, lost the two versus two game at the junior men’s championship. The siblings were both second seeds this year and had a rare chance to turn a provincial double for one household in the same year.

"It would have been absolutely amazing if we’d both won," Shannon Birchard said. "But I can’t say anything bad right now. It’s amazing."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Monday, January 9, 2012 at 3:17 PM CST: Updates game score, finalists for women's championship.

4:23 PM: Updates win.

9:23 PM: Updates women's final.

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