Curling newcomer celebrates team win

Four previous attempts reaped a lot of great memories and a bronze medal.

A few weeks with a broom brought home the gold for Sam Kell.

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It’s just part of the crazy world of sports.

The fifth-year student at Douglas College capped a tremendous collegiate athletic career as a member of the Royals women’s curling team, which captured the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s national title two weeks ago in Fredricton, NB.

Kell, 23, could honestly say she didn’t see it coming, having never curled prior to the provincial championship earlier this year, when the team knocked off Camuson College for the right to represent B.C.

While she knew which end of the rock was up, Kell professes she was a raw rookie when it came to playing the game.

“One of my friends curls and she goes to Douglas. She’s wanted to get a team going at Douglas for a long time. … They needed a fourth so she asked if I wanted to try it. I said, ‘OK, I’ve never curled before but I’m willing to try – long as you know I’m here to have fun.’ They just needed a body,” the Pitt Meadows native recalled.

“It was another chance to possibly go to another nationals, so how could I turn that down.”

That the team, which was ably led by skip Kayla MacMillan, third Patty Wallingham and second Sarah Loken, had the components to challenge for a title wasn’t in doubt. But getting someone who could contribute and not be a drag on their performance was vital.

Cue Kell.

“The first game I was a little bit nervous at provincials, a little jittery but not overly nervous. I didn’t have anything to lose. Just go out and try my best, I made a couple of shots there and it was good,” she said. “The team was fantastic – the coach (Katie Witt) was amazing. She was very positive the whole time, my teammates were very patient and taught me the whole way through – once I got something they’d push me to try something new.”

Douglas began the nationals in a 0-2 hole, having struggled with jet lag and getting accustomed to the New Brunswick ice. On the second day, things came together.

They went on a roll that didn’t end until the final, where against Alberta’s champion they found themselves deadlocked 3-3 after six ends. The Royals broke the stalemate and walked away 7-5 victors.

Kell, who is working towards becoming an elementary school teacher, says her athletic past – which also includes three trips to ringette nationals – was definitely a benefit.

 “I like to think I pick up sports pretty well, but I never thought I’d be picking up a sport and go straight to nationals. That’s pretty crazy.

“I think just being part of a team and having that competitive drive still. Knowing how to communicate with people and know when to have fun – I think I brought an element of fun to the team, just with nothing to lose kind of thing. Usually I’m a lot more focused and intense with my sports. It was a case where I was just relaxed and had some fun with it.”

Getting a gold medal – to accompany the bronze she picked up with the Douglas women’s soccer team in 2016 – was icing on the cake.

“To finish my CCAA career with a gold is a perfect way to sum up everything. Yeah, I didn’t put a lot of time in this particular sport, but I had put in a lot of time in everything else, so it was a long time coming for me. It was a nice conclusion for my career, I think.”

A three-year captain of the women’s soccer team who is up for female athlete of the year, Kell is revelling in the moment.

“I definitely don’t think I’ll be very competitive in (curling) anymore. This is a pretty good place to retire on.”

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