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Team Donaldson hopes to head to provincials amid COVID concerns

U15s hopeful they will be healthy enough to play in Medicine hat from Feb. 3 to 6.
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From left: Rilen Donaldson, Tim Lawrence, Tyson Parker, Haydn Couprie, and coach Taina Smiley are heading to provincials this weekend for the U15 curling team in Medicine Hat. SUPPLIED/Photo

Team Donaldson from the St. Albert Curling Club’s junior elite development program is heading to provincials this weekend, as long as COVID-19 doesn’t take them down.

The U15 team will be heading to Medicine Hat from Feb. 3-6 as long as the team — composed of Rilen Donaldson at skip, Haydn Couprie at lead, Tyson Parker at second, Tim Lawrence at third, and coach Taina Smiley — remains healthy.

Donaldson said COVID has made the season “hit or miss,” and his biggest concern about the tournament is someone else will catch the virus and they won’t be able to go.

COVID has already hit the team. One of the team members recently tested positive for the virus — though he will be out of isolation in time for the tournament — and a person in one of the team members' immediate family has COVID.

“So, we might not be going because of that because it's been a really like hit-or-miss kind of thing,” said Donaldson.

Couprie is also concerned about COVID. He is worried someone will get COVID while they are at the tournament. He is also worried about how COVID has already impacted their game.

“It's kind of annoying because we haven't been able to practice very much,” he said.

Smiley said it is an anxious time for the team.

“I think everyone's a little bit resigned to the fact that it could happen. It's not as front of mind as it might have been a year-and-a-half ago, but the disappointment will still be huge if we can't go,” she said.

Smiley, who is also assistant manager of the St. Albert Curling Club, said COVID has impacted enrolment across the board for young teams and events have been cancelled throughout the season.

“It's been an interesting year. When we play bonspiels, they're probably less well attended than they normally would be. But everyone is certainly happy to be curling again,” she said.

One good thing that has changed because of COVID that Couprie hopes will stick around is the live streams. The team live streams their games on social media.

“[I like it] mainly because I have family that don't live nearby or go away during the curling season,” he said.

Smiley thinks the live streams have been awesome.

“Especially with young curlers, their families are their biggest supporters, and they like to come and watch the game. So, you don't really want the grandparents sitting in [the crowd] watching so they've been able to live stream the games,” she said.

As for provincials, Smiley said the team is really excited.

“It's always fun to go to provincials and see your competitors from across the province. You don't often get to play all of them,” she said.

Donaldson said he is feeling a bit nervous about provincials because it is a big event, and it is the last time he will be able to play in provincials at this level because the team moves up to U18 next year.

“But overall, [I’m feeling] pretty confident,” he said.

As for games he is looking forward to, Donaldson said one of the teams he would really like to beat is Team Yarmouch, a girls’ team. Gender-specific groupings don’t happen until the teams reach U18.

“It'll be the last time we will actually get to play them, and we really want to beat them,” he said.

Donaldson said one of the big improvements the team has made over the year is their communication.

“We still have to work on [it], but we have really improved it,” he said.

As for provincials, Smiley said she is excited to see the team compete and see where they measure up against their peers.

Donaldson has sensible hopes for the weekend.

“I don't really care if we win — that will be an exciting thing — but just to spend time with my team.”

About the Author: Jessica Nelson

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