Royal City curlers absorb lesson at jr. nationals debut

The Royal City Curling Club rink skipped by Coquitlam’s Hayato Sato finished eighth at the Canadian junior men’s curling championship that wrapped up in Langley on Sunday.

But that doesn’t mean it failed.

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In fact, said the team’s coach, Bryan Miki, the young curlers -- skip Sato, second Joshua Miki, third Matthew McCrady and lead Jacob Umbach -- succeeded in their goal to reach the championship round of their first national championship as juniors. How much further they’ll go in the future will depend on the lessons they learned at the week-long event at the George Preston recreation centre.

Primary among those was getting through a week of high-level competition and all the distractions that can come with a national event, said Miki, himself a former world champion.

“There are many internal and external variables to deal with. It’s easy to get caught up.”

After opening the 10-team event with three straight victories in pool play, Miki’s charges faltered in the next three games and had to beat the second team representing British Columbia in a special tie-breaker to reach the championship round.

Sato’s side did just that, topping Johnson Tao’s Richmond rink, 7-3, reprising the result that had given them the provincial title in Victoria earlier in the month.

In championship play Sato again started strong, with a 6-5 win over Nova Scotia, but then lost three in a row to finish with four wins and six losses overall.

Miki said the experience of competing against the top uner-21 curlers from across Canada has given the New West team a measuring stick to determine the improvements they have to make to climb to the top.

“What are the top junior teams doing right that we can use for ourselves?”

Miki added those lessons also apply to himself and co-coach Brent Pierce.

“We have questions to ask ourselves from a bigger picture,” he said. “Did we do everything possible to support the team?”

And while the end result at nationals may not have played out quite the way the team would have liked, Miki said the team’s determination to succeed remains undiminished.

“It was big for us,” he said of the experience.

Tao’s team, that included second Connor Kent from Port Moody, finished atop the seeing pool with five wins and four losses.

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