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CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

SYLVAN LAKE -- Curling in Alberta is a tale of two solitudes.

Much of the attention on the upcoming Roar of the Rings has been focused on the guys.

Rightfully so, since the Olympic curling trials being held in Edmonton in December will showcase the amazing depth of Edmonton men's curling.

But take a 90-minute drive south of the Big E to the Alberta Scotties and it's no stretch to say that the Calgary-based women's teams are every bit as strong as the guys up north.

If the trials started today, both defending Alberta champion Shannon Kleibrink and 2007 champ Cheryl Bernard would grab one of the three direct-entry spots still open for the event.

Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones has struggled this season after grabbing the direct spot while the two Calgary-based teams have had incredible seasons.

Kleibrink leads both the current and two-year CTRS standings and is second to Jones on the three-year list.

In a way, Kleibrink has a chance to become this year's version of Jones -- a team consistently near the top of their game with a chance to finally win the big one.

Kleibrink was the 2006 Olympic bronze medallist and lost the 2008 Scotties to Jones, who went on to claim her bye by winning her first world title.

"Yeah, if everything stays the same as it is today, that would be good," said Kleibrink about earning a ticket to Edmonton.

'A LOT TO GO'

"But there's still a lot of events to go. We know for a fact that if we won this one, we'd be in, guaranteed."

It has been 15 years since Kleibrink won her first Alberta title in 1993. So is it easier coming in as defending champion or contender?

"I don't think it really matters," said Kleibrink. "We play these teams all year. Nobody thinks of us as the defending champion. It's just another event with 12 great teams."

Wanting to get back to the Olympics may have played a big part in Kleibrink's reputation for consistency in this cycle.

"For sure, there's the drive to get back there," said Kleibrink.

"You know, we've kinda had our ups and downs over the year. We haven't been completely consistent. We had a good start, a little valley in the middle and a bit of peak at the end."

CONSISTENT

Bernard is another consistent performer, ranked No. 3 in all three CTRS years.

"That would be great," said Bernard about avoiding the pre-trials event. "But this weekend, our focus is definitely on the Scotties. The Olympics is once every four years, but the Scotties is always going to be huge to us."

Bernard also won the Alberta title in 1992 and 1996 and would like to make amends for a shaky outing at the nationals two years ago.

A win this weekend would help solidify her place in the pecking order.

"I guess one kind of turns into the other," said Bernard. "If we do well this weekend and get into the Canadians, we're probably assured a spot in the trials. It would be great to get back and show everybody what we could do.

"There's still a lot of events and you know curling, anything can change in an instant. This is ultimately what we get excited about. Nothing ever changes.

"I get nervous before the provincials. I get excited to come out and play and it'll never change. But I'm glad it's still happening because once it stops, I'd have to quit."

Edmonton's Cathy King, a five-time provincial champion who won back-to-back titles in 2005-06 was eliminated at the women's northerns but should be at the pre-trials event in Prince George.

But there are a couple of Calgary-based top-16 teams here with a pre-trials shot: No. 11 Heather Rankin and No. 16 Crystal Webster.

The power in Alberta women's curling has definitely cycled south.


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