Tough road to title

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:02 AM ET

She was just a tender lass of 15 when Victoria's Allison Nimik won the 2001 Manitoba junior women's curling title in only her second crack at it.

And she has been attempting to return to the national stage ever since.

"You always want to get back but that team was so young and it just gets harder and harder every year," Nimik said via telephone from Brandon, where she will make her sixth provincial appearance in the Target Junior Men's and Women's Provincial Championships, which start today.

Not that Nimik expected to win a string of provincial crowns.

"It's not a handout," she said.

Nimik, 19, does have the advantage of having one player, Karen Hodgson, who played second for Brandon's provincial champion Tasha Hunter last year, at third. When Nimik won in 2001, Lindsay Titheridge, was at second. Her sister, Karen (18), is now playing lead for her. Marnie Mankewich is at second.

Trouble is, the foursome had been unable to play together from early December until Monday of this week. Hodgson spent the Christmas break on a Caribbean cruise while Mankewich was recovering from having her tonsils removed.

NEED A LOT OF ENERGY

"Marnie's such a tiny little thing already, then she lost 10 pounds because she had an infection after her surgery," Nimik said. "And that was a worry coming in because, when you're playing two games a day, you need a lot of energy. And we're ranked second here and we have a great chance of making it to the nationals.

"But Marnie's good to go now. We've got her eating steak and beans and all that protein stuff and she's got more energy than the rest of us now."

Mankewich and Hodgson, both 20, returned to play with the others for the first time just this week. Nimik still entered the Junior Christmas Bonspiel with Titheridge at third and two others who had barely thrown a rock this season. And they made it all the way to an A-side semifinal.

"That was fun but it made you realize what was missing," said Nimik, who welcomed them back.

Nimik, however, did not welcome the conditions at the Brandon Curling Club.

"We just had our practice and the ice was a lot different than I expected," she said. "It's very straight and we're even running into negative ice already. And it's very release-sensitive. If you throw it out, it will stay out."

Pembina's Kaitlyn Lawes is the No. 1 seed while Steinbach's Dan Kammerlock and Fort Garry's defending provincial champ Daley Peters are one-two on the junior men's side.

Draws go today at 8:30 a.m., 12:15, 4 and 7:45 p.m.


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