As hard as it might be to believe, there existed a national curling championship that Manitoba had not yet won. Until last month, that is.
The University of Manitoba women’s curling team, skipped by Breanne Meakin, went undefeated in Kamloops, B.C., and won the province’s first CIS championship on March 24.
Meakin, a St. Vital resident studying nutritional science, was joined by third Ashley Howard, second Selena Kaatz and lead Krysten Karwacki.
Not only did the rink go 7-0 in the round robin before stealing a win from the University of Alberta in the final, but all four members were named to the championship all-star teams.
Karwacki, a kinesiology student from North Kildonan, was named to the first team, while her three teammates were all named second-team all-stars.
Not bad for a team that only curled together as a complete unit a couple times outside of the western championships and the nationals.
"We have some history together," Meakin said. "Some chemistry was already there, but we needed to get to know each other better. It obviously worked for us this past weekend."
Meakin, Karwacki and Howard, a Fort Garry resident who is set to graduate this summer from the Asper School of Business, are planning to join forces full-time next season on the provincial women’s circuit.
Karwacki said the last thing on her mind was winning the gold medal in the 10th end of the final, as the Manitobans were trailing by one and Alberta had the last rock. But the Alberta skip missed her last shot, and the Bisons stole two for the win.
"It was kind of a shocked reaction," she said. "If anything, we were trying to steal one and force an extra end. We’re all really excited about (the first championship for Manitoba). It’s something we’re really proud of."
Kaatz, a Beausejour resident, won the Manitoba junior championship this winter as part of Shannon Birchard’s team.
Howard was especially happy with the team’s result, considering it was her first and only chance to attend the CIS championships. Howard had previously attended three schools in her native New Brunswick, but none had curling teams.
"I was pretty excited to finally get to a school that gives us the opportunity to play in a national championship," she said. "It was great to play with the girls and put a few wins together."
The Canadian Curling Association, which put on the event along with CIS, hasn’t yet determined which international event it will send the team to. But Meakin is already looking forward to competing again next year, when the winning team will earn a trip to the world university championships.
The men’s team from U of M, skipped by Steen Sigurdson, finished the round robin at 3-4. Second Ian McMillan was a first-team all-star.