National heights hit for Okotoks lead

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An Okotoks curler got an international experience in her first taste of national competition.

Okotokian Megan Johnson and Team Alberta came home with a fourth-place finish and a memorable experience on and off the ice at the Canadian Junior Women’s Curling Championships in Shawinigan, Que.

“It was very interesting and very cool,” Johnson said. “Interesting in the way that none of us had ever been to Quebec before, it was almost like we were in Europe, it was very foreign to us, speaking French was very difficult, but everything came together.

“Tournament-wise just getting to meet everybody from all the different provinces and seeing how a national level event is done was very cool.”

Despite their status as national debutantes, nerves weren’t much of a factor for the Alberta reps – skip Kayla Skrlik, third Ashton Skrlik, second Hope Sunley and Johnson at lead — once they stepped foot on the pebbled ice.

Johnson provided a steady hand as the even-keel member of the squad.

“The nerves pre-event were worse than actually during the event,” Johnson said. “I’ve always been known on the team as the one person who is very cool and calm, like if you put a heart monitor on me you would think I’m dead.

“It doesn’t really faze me when I’m at an event and everyone else kept it together pretty well.”

Team Alberta shook off an opening 7-4 loss to New Brunswick and rallied for four straight victories.

First, they edged Saskatchewan 8-7 with a single in the 10th and final end followed by a 13-3 rout over Yukon and 9-7 triumph over Manitoba. Alberta then doubled up the host province 10-5, thanks to a rarely seen five-ender in the first, to improve to 4-1 in round-robin.

“We dropped our first game to New Brunswick and that kind of put a fire in our bellies,” Johnson said. “We thought we know we can outplay these girls, we know what we can do so we just put that in the back of our heads and use that as some fuel for momentum.”

Team Alberta was finally slowed down in its showdown with Nova Scotia. The Maritime province won 10-4 and eventually took home the national gold medal.

Alberta then saw its hopes of qualifying for one of the three spots in the championship round halted in a narrow 7-5 defeat to Ontario.

“I don’t think we would do anything different,” Johnson said. “But it definitely hurt a bit because on the men’s side a 7-and-3 record got you at least a tiebreaker and for us it just got us fourth.”

Alberta finished their national journey with three impressive wins getting the better of Newfoundland/Labrador, Prince Edward Island convincingly and capping off the championship in a nail-biting 6-5 triumph over Northern Ontario.

Johnson, who ages out of the junior ranks, is keeping her options open going into next season.

“We had a lot of patience and that’s what you need to move forward,” Johnson said.

“I’m going to play it by ear, I’m going back to school in the fall. If I’m going to put my name out there, if I get a call, I get a call and I will probably play for a women’s team.

“If I don’t, I’m not super concerned. Taking a year off for me won’t be a bad option either.”

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