KENTVILLE, NS – Rising star and curling competitor Ryleigh Lake led her U12 curling team to victory at the eighth annual Earl MacKinnon Classic Jan. 21 in Kentville.
It was her first competition as a skip, and certainly not her last. Lake’s team was among the several other U12 and U14 curling teams from across the province that competed in the tournament at Kentville’s Glooscap Curling Club.
Club coordinator and curling coach Nancy Belliveau beamed as she watched the youths battle it out on the ice.
“We teach them that it’s about having fun, but they do get pretty competitive. They love to win, and like going home with the hardware,” she said.
‘A unique opportunity’
Lake is among many curlers who are involved in the junior curling program at the Glooscap Curling Club.
Program coordinator Nancy Belliveau, who is also a coach, says she and other coaches and volunteers spend three nights per week with the young athletes practicing and honing their skills.
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The tournament has drawn teams from as far as Yarmouth and Truro, and saw 40 teams enter this year, a number so large the tournament was split between two venues, with players also competing at the Berwick Curling Club on Saturday.
The tournament featured mixed teams, each made up of boys and girls, and gave the younger athletes a unique opportunity to compete.
“This is one of the few tournaments in Nova Scotia for U12 players,” said Belliveau.
“They play with smaller rocks around half the weight of the larger ones, and not all clubs have those.”
Being a skip ‘a different dynamic’
Lake, 11, has been curling for almost four years.
She says she got her start after getting involved with the Ricks and Rings program at her school, Kings County Academy, and feeling inspired to join the sport.
Her first experience competing as a skip is a memory she’ll hang on to for some time to come.
“It was overwhelming – this was my first time being the skip, and my first big win too,” said Lake.
“It felt different too, because there’s more pressure on the skip. It’s a different dynamic.”
Like the other curlers, some of Lake’s best friends are her fellow curlers. Team spirit was evident at the tournament, according to Belliveau, who watched as Lake and other curlers cheered their teammates on and got high fives from older club members after their matches.
“We practice three nights per week with these kids, so it’s amazing to see them support each other like that,” said Belliveau.
Champions: Team Lake, Glooscap
Finalists: Team Roop, Middleton
Consolation: Team Sawler, Middleton
Consolation runner up: Team Strang, Lakeshore
Champions: First: Team Blades, Lakeshore
Finalists: Team Smith, Lunenburg
Consolation: Team Strang, Lakeshore
Consolation runner up: Team Gray, Mayflower