January 13, 2010
Meakin vows to defend crown
By JIM BENDER, QMI AGENCY
First, she made the leap from lead to skip and successfully defended the Manitoba junior women's championship that she had earned with Kaitlyn Lawes.
Now, St. Vital's Breanne Meakin will attempt to defend the Canadian crown she won with Lawes last year when the Canadian Junior Men's and Women's Championships start in Sorel-Tracy, Que., this Saturday.
"I'm not thinking about that," Meakin said on the eve of battle. "But that would be great. That's the end result that everyone is looking for.
"But we're just looking to get some experience and we want to try our best."
While this is Meakin's third trip to the nationals, it will be her first as a skip.
"It will definitely be different from playing lead," said Meakin, who had skipped a squad to the Under-16 provincial title previously. "But I feel just as confident as I did when I went as a lead."
However, Meakin, 19, went with an experienced crew both times. This year, she is skipping three young girls making their debuts on the national stage. Those would be third Briane Meilleur, 17, second Mariah Mondor, 16, and Krysten Karwacki, 18.
"Part of my job as the coach is to get them prepared and not overwhelmed," said Rob Meakin, Breanne's dad, who won the 1995 men's world championship at second for Kerry Burtnyk.
"We're all looking forward to this and I don't think (inexperience) will be a factor," said Breanne, who went to her first junior nationals as lead for Calleen Neufeld in 2007. "That was very exciting. It was all new and very intense. That whole experience was great."
While Meakin will attempt to defend her Canadian crown, there will likely be more pressure on Ontario's Rachel Homan. Much will be expected of Homan after she qualified for the Canadian Curling Pre-trials in November.
"Obviously, they have a lot of experience," said Rob, adding that Lawes had beaten Homan in last year's final.
FORREST FIRST: While Meakin has been there before, the entire Deer Lodge squad skipped by Alex Forrest will be making its first national appearance on the junior men's side.
"I don't necessarily have big expectations," said Forrest, 20. "But if we play like we have been, we'll have a good chance to get to the final.
"We're all getting a little more anxious every day now."
Forrest will be supported by third Joey Witherspoon, 18, second Connor Njegovan, 16 and Mike Neufeld, 19. Neufeld is the youngest son of former Brier winner Chris Neufeld and both of his brothers -- Denni and B.J. have been to the junior nationals before.
"They're all pretty excited," Forrest said. "Mike is particularly excited because he's the last one in the family to go. I think we're all ready for it."
Tyler Forrest, his older brother, went to the juniors with Reid Carruthers in 2003.
"He thinks we have a better team than he did," Alex said. "But they didn't play up to their potential."
P.E.I.'s Brett Gallant is the defending champ.
NUMBERS WANING: The numbers are down for both this week's Safeway Championship city men's zone playdowns that started last night and Curl Manitoba women's annual spiel that begins Friday.
Only 50 teams entered the zones -- down from 64 last year -- and 22 in the competitive division of the women's bonspiel, which offers a berth into next year's provincials in Altona.
"They're disappointing numbers but I would hope they go back up the way they did for the Scotties city zones this year," Curl Manitoba executive director Shane Ray said. "Until it becomes a real trend, I wouldn't panic."