Jones tunes up in U.S. for trials

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

They will be hoping to get the last bugs out their game this weekend.

Team Canada's Jennifer Jones is heading to the U.S. to curl in her last cashspiel before heading to the Canadian Curling Trials in Halifax next month.

Her St. Vital squad will compete in the Labatt Cash Spiel in Duluth, Minn., which offers a purse of $7,500 US. Competitors will include reigning U.S. champion Cassie Johnson, former American champ Deb McCormick and Ontario's trials-bound Jo-Ann Rizzo.

"The first part of the season went by quite fast," second Jill Officer said recently. "We went five weeks in a row, then took a bit of a rest, then a training weekend. We're off to Duluth, then Halifax."

Jones has enjoyed more success on the cashspiel trail this season than any other team. Her foursome leads the current standings with $20,000 and that includes the victory at the Casinos of Winnipeg Classic, where most of the trials-bound teams competed.

"We're pretty pleased with how things are going," Officer said. "But there are always things we can work on."

However, breaking in Georgina Wheatcroft at lead to replace Cathy Gauthier has been no problem.

"There was a bit of a transition period with her but she has fit in quite well," said Officer, who rooms with Wheatcroft on the road. "It's more about the curling than the team dynamics now."

The Canadian champs started preparing for the trials as soon as they returned from the world championship in Scotland, Officer said.

"This is all about peaking in December instead of later in the year," she said.

Manitoba's Rhonda Varnes and Tracey Lavery will also be in Duluth.

WHO'S AT FIFTH? Manitoba's trials-bound Jeff Stoughton, who won $8,000 for qualifying at the first Grand Slam, is taking this weekend off before heading to one final cashspiel next weekend.

But there will be some interesting fifth men at the Olympic trials. New Brunswick skip Russ Howard, who has joined Newfoundland's Brad Gushue, was rotated through the lineup at last weekend's Slam. Ontario skip Wayne Middaugh, who won the Slam, will be the fifth for Ontario's Glenn Howard, a former teammate. Middaugh's lead, Scott Bailey, will be the fifth for Alberta's Kevin Martin, who is concerned about the back troubles bothering lead Don Bartlett the last few years. And Alberta's John Morris added Saskatchewan's Ben Hebert. Stoughton, of course, has Don Harvey, who played for Dave Smith and with Stoughton's third, Jon Mead, at the 1997 Olympic trials.

On the women's side, Ontario's Sherry Middaugh has added Alberta skip Cathy Borst while Saskatchewan will take Nancy Inglis, who is second Joan McCusker's sister. Jennifer Jones, of course, has Janet Arnott, the sister and longtime lead for Manitoba legend Connie Laliberte, the team's new coach.


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