In their first year of existence, the GW Graham curling girls are heading to provincial championships after winning the Eastern Valley Athletic Association title. Left to right in the photo: Mackenzie Campbell, Alisa Gusakova, Sydney Owens, Nicole Campbell, Nicole Leighton and coach Brad Robinson. (Submitted photo)

Epic first year for GW Graham curling crew

A team of upstarts has won an Eastern Valley banner and now goes hunting for a B.C. championship.

A brand new curling team at GW Graham secondary is making history.

GWG has never had a curling team since the school opened in 2006, and four members of this first-year crew never stepped on the ice before November.

But skip Nicole Leighton, a Grade 10 student, has been curling for six years and has shown teammates Sydney Owens, Mackenzie Campbell, Nicole Campbell (all in Grade 12) and Alisa Gusakova (Grade 11) how to get things done.

Earlier this month, they competed against three other schools in the Eastern Valley Athletic Association zone playdowns, gunning for a berth in the B.C. Girls Curling Provincial Championships.

The Grizzlies went undefeated in round-robin play with an 8-3 win over Sardis, a 10-3 triumph over Aldergrove and a 14-0 whitewash of Langley’s DW Poppy.

That landed them in the final against Aldergrove, where they emerged victorious with an 8-2 decision.

“Nicole stepped in as a mentor and teacher of the game to her older teammates,” said the team’s coach, Brad Robinson. “Her years of experience in the Chilliwack Curling Club’s junior program and other leagues allowed her to lead the way and pass on helpful tips and strategies to the other girls. Nicole has never played at skip before this year, and was a quick study of the position.”

Leighton now leads her team into provincials, which run March 4-7 in Lake Country, north of Kelowna, looking to bring home GWG’s first-ever curling banner.

“I am very excited to experience this new opportunity with my amazing teammates,” Leighton said. “We have made drastic progress since the start of the season and I am very proud of how we have come together as a team.”

“At provincials I just hope that we do our best and that we can be relaxed out there against these top teams.”

Competition will be tough at the year-end tournament, and Robinson expects it to be a great learning experience.

“Curling is a tough sport to learn, but these girls made it look easy,” he said. “Their skills have come a long way since the beginning of November, and they have done very well for their first year of curling. I know that they are going to represent our community and our school with pride, spirit, and passion.”

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Another local team will be competing at provincials.

Sardis is sending their senior boys team with includes Cole Braun, Lucas Arnold, Julian Larsen, and Nick Voth. They are coached by Duane Hetland.

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