Sports

Altona curlers make Scotties impression

Jim Bender

BEAUSEJOUR - 

Altona’s Mackenzie Zacharias dropped an 8-3 decision to Granite’s Kristy McDonald on Thursday, then asked the top-seeded squad at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts to pose for a picture with her very young team on the Sun Gro Centre ice.
Their heroes gladly obliged.
“We’ve always watched them on TV, so they’re our role models,” said Emily Zacharias, Mackenzie’s younger sister. “So, to get to play against them and get a picture with them is really cool.”
Emily, by the way, is just 14. Yes, 14.
“It was pretty unbelievable to hear that I was at the youngest person to ever be at the Scotties,” Emily said. “It’s an unbelievable experience to be here and to be this young and to be curling beside all the people I once grew up watching on TV.”
It was only this year that girls aged under 19 were allowed to compete at the provincials.
Mackenzie, who is just 16, lost a playoff game at the junior provincials earlier this month. Now, her foursome is playing against some women twice and even three times their age here.
“It’s just been amazing,” said Mackenzie, whose third, Morgan Reimer, is 15 and lead, Jenessa Rutter, 17. “It’s been such a great learning experience. We’ve learned more here than I have in a long time. I mean, it’s just incredible.”
Zacharias is 0-4.
“It’s very tough,” she said. “You have to make every shot so perfect all the time, be right on, and it’s real exciting how tough it is because it just shows you where you have to get to one day.”
Zacharias has learned strategy and where to place rocks more precisely.
“This year has been something to remember,” she said. “It’s been incredible. I think it shows that there’s a bright future for Manitoba. I know Manitoba is a hard province to get out of so, just being able to be here and being at the Scotties is real exciting. “Hopefully, we’ll be back here a few more times and do a little bit better, get more experience, and hopefully, maybe one day win.”
St. Vital’s two-time provincial junior champion Shannon Birchard believes such young teams as Zacharias and Fort Rouge’s Christine MacKay making it to the Scotties is good for the game.
“It’s great,” Birchard, 21, said after beating Neepawa’s Terry Ursel 9-1. “I think there’s been a bit of the changing of the guard over the last couple of years in terms of a lot of the young teams are coming up and playing in women’s.”