Cunninghams carrying on a family tradition

Kenn Oliver
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It's an annual rite of winter: a Cunningham representing Newfoundland and Labrador at a national curling event.

Every year since 1984, a member of the Cunningham clan has been to a national tournament. The patriarch of the St. John's family, Geoff, was a third on four provincial Tankard-winning rinks from 1984 to 1992, while the matriarch, Cathy, has represented the province 12 times, most recently as the third stone for Heather Strong's foursome in 2009.

Neither will vie for a national championship this winter, but beginning this weekend, both will be in the stands at the Colisee Cardin in Sorel-Tracy, Que., where their daughters Jennifer and Jessica, along with lead Cheryl Norman and third Tara O'Brien, will compete in the junior nationals, their first.

Representing Newfoundland and Labrador at the national junior womens curling championship is the Re/Max Centre (St. Johns Curling Club) rink of (from left), skip Jennifer Cunningham, third Tara OBrien, second Jessica Cunningham, lead Cheryl Norman and co

It's an annual rite of winter: a Cunningham representing Newfoundland and Labrador at a national curling event.

Every year since 1984, a member of the Cunningham clan has been to a national tournament. The patriarch of the St. John's family, Geoff, was a third on four provincial Tankard-winning rinks from 1984 to 1992, while the matriarch, Cathy, has represented the province 12 times, most recently as the third stone for Heather Strong's foursome in 2009.

Neither will vie for a national championship this winter, but beginning this weekend, both will be in the stands at the Colisee Cardin in Sorel-Tracy, Que., where their daughters Jennifer and Jessica, along with lead Cheryl Norman and third Tara O'Brien, will compete in the junior nationals, their first.

"They've been on the doorstep for a few years now and I'm thrilled for them," says Cathy.

"Geoff and I really excited to go with them."

The foursome earned their place in the nationals by defeating Julie Devereaux's rink twice in the playoff round of the provincial junior championships last month at the Re/Max Centre (St. John's Curling Club).

It was a victory that somewhat shocked Jennifer, the team's skip.

"As the last shot came down towards us, (Tara) and I were like, 'I think we just won'," Jennifer says.

"It was shocking, but I feel like with the amount of work we've put in it's definitely deserved."

With the exception of Jessica, who came on board last year, the team has been together since being assembled for the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon. (The third on that team, Jessica Mouland, now curls for Julie Devereaux's rink.)

"I'm the luckiest girl in the world in that respect," Jennifer insists. "I curl with two of my best friends and my little sister. Team dynamics-wise, we always get along. There's barely ever a time where there's a disagreement."

That dynamic will be put to the test as Cunningham and her rinkmates begin their first quest towards a national championship.

Off-ice advice

And while you might think Mom and Dad, with their bevy of national experience, could offer expert advice on how to approach certain games, their sage-like wisdom is focused more on what the team should be doing off the ice.

"She and our coach Leslie Anne Walsh had a discussion about resting, break times and having fun in between games, keeping the team together and keeping everyone focused," Jennifer explains.

The resting, Cathy says, is crucial come the end of the week.

"They've got a really good schedule that bodes well for a good competition for them with lots of opportunity to rest between games. They have just one day where they have back to back games."

After that, she says, 'you have to rely on good shot making and a little bit of luck here and there."

The girls open against P.E.I. in the first draw Saturday afternoon and face the 2009 runner-up, Ontario's Rachel Homan, Saturday evening.

koliver@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Max Centre, Curling Club

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Whitehorse Yukon Ontario

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Recent comments

  • In shape not from Curling
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Should this article be in the lifestyles column?
    This is not a sport...they don't have to be in shape or even crack a sweat. Yes they have lots of skill but so do darts players, poker players and pool players. When will the sporting community simply say no to this GAME?

  • In shape not from Curling
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Should this article be in the lifestyles column?
    This is not a sport...they don't have to be in shape or even crack a sweat. Yes they have lots of skill but so do darts players, poker players and pool players. When will the sporting community simply say no to this GAME?