The one to beat

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:15 AM ET

WINNIPEG - There will be no shortage of storylines this week at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Altona.

The provincial women’s curling championship begins bright and early on Wednesday morning at Sunflower Gardens Arena, and someone who hasn’t played in the event since 2008 is the one to beat.

Fort Rouge’s Cathy Overton-Clapham is the top seed going into the 16-team event. She, of course, was let go by three-time defending Canadian champ Jennifer Jones last spring.

Since the defending Canadian champ gets an automatic berth in the following year’s national Scotties, Overton-Clapham hasn’t been at provincials since 2008. You can bet Overton-Clapham would love to meet Jones in Charlottetown next month, but you can’t get her to say it.

“I’m sure this isn’t the (last) time I’m going to be asked this week,” Overton-Clapham said Monday. “It’s not about playing them. It’s just about getting to the Scotties.”

One of Overton-Clapham’s favourite Scotties was in Charlottetown in 1999, so that is driving her to get back. So is her basic desire to win.

“Any time you get to play in a provincial championship and try to earn your right to go to a Canadian championship, it’s a dream,” she said. “I want to go as much as every other team that’s playing in the Manitoba Scotties. It would be wonderful if it happened.”

Another interesting twist this week concerns Overton-Clapham and the second seed, defending champ Jill Thurston of the Granite. Thurston parted ways with her front end after last season, so Leslie Wilson and Renaura Westcott joined Overton-Clapham, who was looking for new teammates.

Thurston added Jenna Loder and her fifth, Kendra Georges, to her lineup, which could make for an interesting final if the seeds are correct.

“They’re excited,” Overton-Clapham said of Wilson and Westcott. “They’re going in to try and defend their provincial title.”

There is even a third storyline with the Overton-Clapham squad, as Karen Fallis replaced Breanne Meakin at third. Meakin won the provincial junior women’s title earlier this month and is off to Calgary this weekend for the start of nationals.

Overton-Clapham took her team to Edmonton over the weekend for an exhibition tune-up event against teams including Heather Nedohin, Stefanie Lawton and Renee Sonnenberg. She knows the field in Altona isn’t going to be easy.

“Everyone’s going to be tough,” she said. “You gotta be on your toes for every game.”

On a more sombre note, Curl Manitoba officials said eighth seed Joelle Brown of Fort Rouge will play this week despite losing her partner, competitive curler Pat Spiring, to cancer last week.

“I know she’s got all the support of all her competitors for sure, and if she chooses to be there then I think that’s great for her,” Overton-Clapham said. “And I’m sure that Pat would want nothing more than her to be out there, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her out there playing.”

THE SEEDS

1. Cathy Overton-Clapham, Fort Rouge

2. Jill Thurston, Granite

3. Chelsea Carey, Morden

4. Janet Harvey, Assiniboine-Memorial

5. Kim Link, East St. Paul

6. Kerri Einarson, Fort Rouge

7. Lisa Blixhavn, Brandon

8. Joelle Brown, Fort Rouge

THE REST

(in alphabetical order)

Betty Buurma, Carberry

Tina Kozak, Brookdale

Bev Lumax, Swan River

Deb McCreanor, La Salle

Michelle Montford, Fort Rouge

Brette Richards, Assiniboine Memorial

Karen Rosser, Springfield

Kelly Wiwcharuk, Snow Lake

THE POOLS

BLACK — Overton-Clapham, Harvey, Einarson, Brown, Richards, Kozak, Buurma, Wiwcharuk

RED — Thurston, Carey, Link, Blixhavn, Rosser, Montford, McCreanor, Lumax

THE SCHEDULE

Wednesday

Draws at 8:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.

Thursday

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

Friday

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

Saturday

Draws at 8:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

Tiebreakers (if needed) at 4 p.m.

Page playoffs at 7:45 p.m.

Sunday

Semifinal, 9:30 a.m.

Final, 1:30 p.m.


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