A St. Albert curler is headed to his first U21 nationals after his team emerged victorious during provincials last month.
Colby Yacey, a first-year education student at the University of Alberta and Bellerose high school graduate, said his team’s success is especially meaningful after last year’s COVID-related restrictions and delays. Yacey said now he feels like he’s “living the high life.”
“It's been a goal of mine for a long time to represent Alberta,” Yacey said of being nationals-bound. “This is honestly pretty much a dream come true.”
Team Burton, composed of skip Kinley Burton, third Justice Jacques, second Oliver Burton, and lead Yacey, didn’t have a chance to qualify for provincials at the end of 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions ramping up at the end of the year.
In the meantime, Team Burton honed in on off-ice training for what would have been the remainder of the season, hopping back into on-ice training in July of 2021.
Since then, Yacey said the team has been working hard, and making frequent trips to Calgary, where most provincials curling events take place.
Curling since he was six years old, Yacey initially played out of St. Albert, but later began training in Edmonton’s Saville Community Sports Centre. There, he met Burton, and later joined his team, which has been together for the past three years.
“Going to nationals has been our focus all this time,” Yacey said, adding that in addition to his team’s hard work, the “tireless generosity” of sponsors, coach Tom Kitagawa, parents, and team-members’ workplaces, have made it possible to get this far.
Yacey himself juggles school and curling while working at Safeway in St. Albert, which he said has been “very accommodating” of his hectic schedule.
“I’ve been very lucky,” Yacey said.
Team Burton played a strong season, coming into provincials ranked second. In the provincial finals, they faced off against first-ranked Team Wipf, where Team Burton came out on top, scoring 7-4 in the deciding game.
“Those guys are an amazing team,” Yacey said of Team Wipf. “Every game we played against them has basically been down to the last rock, so we knew it was going to be a battle either way — we just happened to get a couple of lucky breaks in the latter half of the game.”
Yacey said he is inspired by the high quality of curling in Alberta.
“We have such a strong junior field,” Yacey said. “It’s an honour to represent them at nationals, and we just hope we do right by them by doing well.”
Nationals are currently scheduled for May 2-7 at the Oakville Curling Club in Oakville, Ont. After all the uncertainty of the pandemic, Yacey said he is looking forward to sharing the experience with his teammates and making memories that will last a lifetime.
“It’s been a crazy couple of years,” Yacey said. “We’re pretty excited to go travelling. It will be such a cool experience.”