Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Front-end realignment for Cathy-O's team

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REGINA -- Winnipeg's Cathy Overton-Clapham will once again have a new team next winter -- only this time it will be by choice.

Overton-Clapham told the Free Press Monday that second Leslie Wilson and lead Raunora Westcott -- the front end that helped her win a Manitoba women's curling championship this winter -- will not be returning next season.

In place of Wilson and Westcott, Overton-Clapham has recruited two-time Canadian junior champion Jenna Loder and Ashley Howard, the daughter of three-time world champion and TSN curling analyst Russ Howard.

Breanne Meakin -- who played third for Overton-Clapham for most of the 2010-11 season, but not at the provincials because she was representing Manitoba at the Canadian Juniors at the time -- will be back with Overton-Clapham again next winter.

As expected, Karen Fallis, who filled in for Meakin at the provincials and most of the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts, will also not be back with the team.

Overton-Clapham said the decision to part ways with Wilson and Westcott was made by mutual agreement. "We sat down at the end of the season and Leslie said she wanted to take a year off from curling and Raunora isn't sure what she's going to be doing," Overton-Clapham said in a phone interview.

"We'd only put together the team last August and we'd all made a one-year commitment to curl together. And we had a great year. But Leslie wanted a break and Raunora wasn't sure what she wants to do. We all just agreed that we would go our own ways."

The move marks the end of a remarkable team -- cobbled together late last summer out of necessity and in highly unusual circumstances -- that generated national headlines in the brief time they were together.

Overton-Clapham was infamously fired by her former skip, Jennifer Jones, last spring and found herself in the rare position of needing to find a new team despite being a three-time defending Canadian champion. And Wilson and Westcott, who won the 2010 Manitoba championship together with Jill Thurston, found themselves needing a new team after they parted ways with Thurston in a personality clash.

The new combination had modest success on the cash spiel circuit this winter but caught fire at January's provincials in Altona and won the Manitoba title.


They struggled at the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Charlottetown -- limping to a 4-7 record -- but will best be remembered for defeating Team Canada's Jones in a highly anticipated round-robin clash.

The personnel move means that for the second year in a row, Wilson and Westcott have curled on the Manitoba women's champion only to leave the team at the end of the season.

Overton-Clapham said Westcott will curl with her at the Players Championship in Grande Prairie later this month, but will step aside for good after that.

"I have decided to take a season off. I let the team know shortly after I returned from P.E.I.," Wilson said in an email last night. She told the Free Press in February that the sudden death of her 26-year-old brother, Brent, last September shook her badly and she had considered at that time taking a break away from curling.

Overton-Clapham said she has not yet decided what position everyone will play on her new foursome, other than that she will skip.

Loder played second for Jill Thurston last winter and played third for Kaitlyn Lawes on her back-to-back Canadian junior champions in 2008 and 2009.

Meakin curled third for Overton-Clapham for much of last winter, but has also curled extensively at lead.

Howard skipped New Brunswick at the 2009 Canadian Juniors and also skipped her own women's team at this year's New Brunswick provincial women's championship. The team finished 2-5. Overton-Clapham said Howard is moving to Winnipeg and will attend university.

Overton-Clapham said her new team is pointed at one target. "This is all about building a team towards the 2013 (Canadian Curling) Trials," said Overton-Clapham. "It's a chance for me to maybe share some of the things that I've learned over the years. And for me it's this amazing chance to curl with three women who are all in their early 20s and are excited about the game.

"When will I ever get a chance like that again? And look how it turned out for Anette (Norberg)."

Sweden's Norberg won the 2006 Olympic gold medal in Turin and then reinvented herself with a young new team -- which she then promptly led to another gold medal in Vancouver.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2011 C1

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