When the members of Corryn Brown's rink land in Fort McMurray this afternoon, they might finally get a chance to think about the M&M Meats Canadian junior curling championships.
It's not that Brown and Co. aren't excited - they are - it's just that they had to tie up some loose ends on Monday and Tuesday. Nothing too important, really - just final exams.
Brown will wear B.C.'s colours in the women's draw of the championships, which will bring together 14 junior men's and 14 junior women's teams for a competition that starts Saturday and ends Feb. 10. Tyler Klymchuk of Langley is B.C.'s men's representative.
Brown, third Erin Pincott, second Samantha Fisher and lead Sydney Fraser are all 17, so have to deal with life outside of curling. And, as fun as nationals will be, Brown didn't exactly have inturns and draws on her mind earlier in the week.
"We're excited," Brown said recently, "but it's kind of tough to get too excited . . . (with) finals Monday and Tuesday."
Pincott and Fraser each had three exams at South Kamloops Secondary, and Brown had two. Fisher, who attends Valleyview Secondary, got her exams out of the way a week earlier.
The Brown rink has had its share of success on the ice and has been in some pretty important competitions. So maybe, just maybe, the girls having a distraction before one of the biggest events of their careers might be a good thing.
"It's definitely good to concentrate on something else," Brown conceded, before quickly adding, "but it would be nice to get some time to take it easy . . ."
Well, that won't happen for a while.
The Brown rink will get a chance to check out the ice Friday, before starting its six-game round-robin on Saturday. In Brown's pool are rinks from Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland/Labrador, Yukon and Nunavut.
The top four teams from each pool will move into a championship pool - the top team after those games will go straight to the final, with the next two playing in a semifinal.
In most national curling events, teams from the north historically haven't fared as well as those from, say, the Prairies or Ontario. But Brown knows all too well how tough Yukon can be.
"Saskatchewan and Alberta, they always have good teams, but who knows?" she said. "(We played) Yukon three years ago, at my first Optimist (International). It was my first game at an international competition, and we just got kicked.
"I haven't forgotten that."
It appears as though none of the Brown curlers has forgotten anything during their short careers.
Like a train in a Denzel Washington movie, the rink has been unstoppable since it won its first provincial juvenile (under-16) title in 2010. It won two more, along with a Canada Winter Games gold medal in Halifax in 2011.
Brown, who won a bronze medal at the Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, in February, also skipped her quartet to gold at the Optimist International under-18 bonspiel in Toronto in April.
As a rink, the Canadian juniors might be the biggest event yet.
Brown has trouble determining which is bigger - the Canada Winter Games were a huge, multisport spectacle, but junior nationals are run by the Canadian Curling Association and, basically, one step below the Scotties Tournament of Hearts national women's championship.
(It should be pointed out that Rachel Homan, who will represent Ontario at her second straight Scotties next month, won the Canadian junior title in 2010. She also won a Canada Winter Games gold in 2007).
"We feel pretty comfortable," Brown said. "But there are different aspects here . . . so many unknowns. We've never been to a national event classified by the CCA."
And nerves? Well, Brown has dealt with them before, so doesn't seem too worried.
"I'm sure we'll have some in the first game," she said. "But that game sets the table for the whole week, so we'll have to shake them off quickly."
To the winner goes a trip to Sochi, Russia, for the world junior championships from Feb. 28 to March 10.
If Brown were to win, it would create a scheduling conflict between junior worlds and the provincial high school championship, to which Kamloops Curling Club will play host from Feb. 28 to March 2.
Brown, Pincott and Fraser teamed up with their South Kam teammates Desiree Daley, Samantha Reimer and Mackenzie Anderson to win a weekend regional meet and qualify for provincials. They ended up beating Fisher's Valleyview rink in the final.
But Brown, who's as focused as any young athlete, isn't thinking about a potential trip to Sochi just yet.
"Obviously it's on our minds a little," she said, "but we're not concentrating on it. We're concentrating on the present, but that will always be there.
"We just can't let ourselves get tunnel vision."
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