Cellphones save the day

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

These can be nail-biting times for parents who have kids curling in both the Target Junior Men's and Junior Women's Provincial Championships being played about a 50-minute ride apart.

For example, both Daniel and Shannon Birchard are competing in their very first Manitoba playdowns -- with Daniel in Rivers and Shannon in Virden.

"They both got into the provincials this year, so it's keeping us pretty busy," Bruce Birchard, who is coaching his son, said from Rivers yesterday. "My wife, Heidi, is in Virden with Shannon, so we're burning up the cellphone minutes."

Although the two are playing on alternate draws, there just isn't enough time to race back and forth, Bruce said.

The Birchards boast two of the youngest skips in the provincials. Shannon is 12, while Daniel just turned 14 on Dec. 30.

"I'm pretty proud of both of them," said Bruce. "It's just amazing that they've gotten here at this age, but they're both pretty competitive."

Daniel Birchard, the No. 9 seed playing out of the Wildewood, dropped an 8-7 extra-end decision to Alonsa's fifth-seeded Cory Zdan in his inaugural provincial appearance.

"I thought it was pretty good for the first time," said Daniel, supported by third Kelly Fordyce, 14, second Andrew Peck, 13, and Brody Moore, 14. "I didn't even feel that nervous. It was also the first time we've ever played with time clocks. We're usually a pretty slow team, but we made out OK.

"We're playing pretty well, and if we can play as well as we can we can beat pretty much every team here. If we don't, we'll see what happens."

His sister, Shannon, playing out of La Salle and seeded No. 11, dropped an 11-1 decision to Petersfield's third-ranked Kerri Flett in her provincial debut.

Meanwhile, Springfield's second-seeded Curtis Joyal, Petersfield's Team Flett and Wildewood's Geoff Lang were 2-0 before the late draw.

The Birchards were not the only ones trying to keep tabs on a daughter and a son. Miami's Blaine Rutter is coaching his daughter, Jolene, in Virden, while his 16-year-old son, Cal, is skipping a squad in Rivers.

"My brother and I are in the same pool, so my mom is watching my brother," Jolene, 18, said from Virden. "My sister, Leanne, who's 12, is also watching my brother because they have a smaller group of fans -- plus there's a pool in the hotel they're staying in."

Jolene, the No. 9 seed, upset Kaileigh Strath's fifth-seeded Souris squad 11-4 in six ends.

"It's good to start off a bonspiel like that," said Jolene, 18, supported by third Shannon Gillis, 19, her sister, Eryn Gillis, 17, at second and Lisa Bartley, 17. "It certainly gives us a boost of confidence."

Cal did not fare as well, dropping a 9-3 decision to Fort Garry's top-ranked Andrew Irving.

Meanwhile, Thompson's Jennifer Rolles upset Flett 10-9 in an extra end.

Pembina's second-seeded Kaitlyn Lawes and Assiniboine Memorial's Michelle Montford were 2-0 before the late draw. La Salle's defending champion Calleen Neufeld also opened with a win.


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