Shaela Hayward, Keira Krahn, India Young and Rylie Cox will graduate from Carman Collegiate in five short months.

This semester, three of the four grade 12 student/athletes begin their school day bright and early, right after the 8:45 a.m. bell.

Shaela Hayward and India Young have English Language Arts class and Keira Krahn has a physics class.

Rylie Cox gets to sleep in as she has a spare.

Hayward, Young & Krahn won’t be in their respective first classes of the day on Wednesday morning and Cox will have to set her alarm a little earlier than usual.

That’s because the reigning Provincial U18 champions will be curling against top seed Kaitlyn Lawes, Selena Njegovan, Jocelyn Peterman and Kristin MacCuish on the opening draw at 8:30 a.m. at the 2024 Provincial Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Morden.

All 12 teams had a 30-minute practice session Tuesday afternoon.

It was Team Hayward’s first look at the magnificent curling facility they’ll be playing in at the Access Event Centre. 

Rylie Cox was more than impressed.

“My mouth was on the floor,” said Cox. “I just couldn’t believe it. It’s just unreal to me.”

“We’re very thankful for the practice session here before the event, especially for the Scotties and the U18 Nationals that we’re off to,” added Young. “We’ve never played on arena ice, so this is a great experience. Not only the practice today, but all week is just practice for us for Nationals.”

Hayward, Krahn, Young & Cox will throw practice rocks prior to the start of the opening draw Wednesday morning and then get piped out onto the ice; be introduced to the curling fans in attendance and shake hands with Lawes, Njegovan, Peterman and MacCuish.

Krahn says there will be a bit of nerves but also a lot of excitement.

“It’s always been my dream to play against Kaitlyn Lawes,” Krahn said. “She was my favorite curler growing up, so it’ll be really exciting. I’m glad we can start the event off curling her. It’ll be great.”

Kaitlyn Lawes has won Olympic and World Championship gold medals and is an honored member of the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame.

She has reached the top of the mountain and Shaela Hayward is looking forward to playing the number one seed.

“We’re just really excited. Lots of people from Carman are coming out so we’re just going to try and make some shots and get the crowd into it a little bit. I think that’s our goal. We’ll try to keep it close if we can, but just get as much experience as we can out of that game and just enjoy it.”

Flashback eight years ago.

Another young curling team from the Pembina Valley had a January to remember.

16-year-old Mackenzie Zacharias along with third Morgan Reimer, second Emily Zacharias and lead Jenessa Rutter competed in their first Provincial Junior Championship in Rivers. Ten days later they joined former champions Cathy Overton-Clapham, Janet Harvey, Barb Spencer, Darcy Kirkness and eventual champion Kerri Einarson at the 2016 Provincial Scotties at the SunGro Centre in Beausejour.

“It was an experience I’ll never forget,” texted Zacharias. “That was my first time playing in front of a crowd and feeling the rush of playing on the Big Stage for the first time.”

Shaela Hayward, Keira Krahn, India Young and Rylie Cox – that Big Stage is now yours.

Play well!