Irene Creally and her teammates found a virtual fountain of youth when they won the B.C. Ladies Masters curling championship.
Even if the fountain was frozen.
“When we received our Team B.C. jackets it was like we were a bunch of six-year-old kids dancing around,” Creally recalled of that 2006 victory. “We were at our club’s wrap-up, and they put We Are the Champions on the speakers, and here’s all these old ladies dancing around.”
Creally, a six-time competitor, has moved on to host committee duties as championship curling returns to the Qualicum Beach Curling Club this weekend. The club will host the B.C. Mixed Open championships March 3-6, with a berth in the nationals in Nova Scotia next fall at stake.
“Winning your region and going to provincials is so exciting,” said Creally, who played in three senior ladies championships with the Kerry Park Curling Club and three masters ladies tournaments since moving to Qualicum Beach 14 years ago. “The competition is always excellent.”
This weekend’s mixed open will feature eight teams from across the province, from Kamloops, Kimberly and Williams Lake to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
“The eight best teams in B.C. will converge on our club,” said Robert Jensen, another member of the local club’s host committee, which is chaired by Eileen Leachman. “The quality of curling will be top-notch. These guys come to win.”
The visiting teams — the host club did not advance in zone qualifying — will be introduced in an opening ceremoney Wednesday evening. After practice rounds and team briefing, the action commences with draws Thursday at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Friday at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.; and Saturday at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The playoffs begin with a pair of crossover games Saturday at 7 p.m., and wrap up Sunday with a semifinal at 9 a.m. and the championship final at 2 p.m.
In addition to the 32 players and accompanying family members, upwards of 50 volunteers from the Qualicum Beach Curling Club will host a cadre of Curl B.C. officials. Bleachers will be placed in the lower viewing area and the upstairs lounge will be open to the public for viewing throughout the weekend.
Statisticians will be tasked with tracking each game, and cameras will provide overhead views of each house during play.
“It’s a big job hosting, but we’ve done it before,” said Creally, who has been involved as a host three times in Qualicum Beach. Overall, the local club has hosted four championships, with Leachman involved each time.
That quality of play, organizers say, is equivalent to that found in qualifiers for the Brier (men’s) and Scottie’s Tournament of Hearts (ladies) Canadian championships.
“One thing that’s different with mixed, is that while some teams will play together during the season and do all the bonspiels, others are just put together and play when they’re not competing with their men’s or women’s teams,” said Creally.
That is the case for Vancouver Island’s representative, which pairs father and son Wes and Miles Craig of Kerry Park with siblings Kesa and Marika Van Osch of Nanaimo. It’s a bit of a reunion for Creally, as Mile Craig comes out of the Kerry Park junior curling program she ran for years.
There could still be an opportunity for local curlers to take part. Under provincial rules, mixed teams are not allowed to travel with alternates or a coach. In the event of illness or injury, substitute players are provided from a “spare pool” of local players, Creally said. Those will include the members of the mixed team that recently competed in the Island zone qualifier and local standout Lynn Noble, who recently competed in the B.C. senior ladies championships.
More than 40 local businesses have signed on as sponsors, said Jensen, and 10 have provided raffle prizes ranging from return airfare to a resort stay to fishing charters to gift baskets.
“The idea is to make it a fun experience for the players, and for the community,” he said. “The whole club thrives on being part of the community.”