After Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris won the mixed doubles trials in Portage la Prairie, there was one burning question sliding around the curling community:
If Jennifer Jones makes the Scotties, who will throw third stones?
As Jones took care of business in Killarney, the national championship in BC was far from 23-year-old Shannon Birchard’s mind. After missing the playoffs at the Manitoba Scotties, Birchard wasn’t very happy.
“Coming home, I had two days to be sad and depressed about that,” Birchard told 680 CJOB. “Then Jennifer called me, and all of a sudden I was jetting off to Alberta and then Penticton. It was just crazy and such an amazing experience that I’m never going to forget.”
By now we all know what happened: Birchard had a front row seat to watch Jones capture her sixth Scotties title by outlasting fellow Manitoban Kerri Einarson. One week later, Birchard still has to pinch herself.
“It still doesn’t really seem real. It’s not exactly something I saw myself achieving for at least a couple years,” Birchard said. “I think that’s the main reason why I still don’t really believe it and have to check Google every once in a while just to see that it was real.”
Birchard filled Lawes’ shoes admirably, named Second Team All-Star at the third position. She’s played against the crew of Jones, Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen on tour before, but admitted that it was surreal to be on the same team.
“To actually be involved in their team, and how they do things, the amount of shots they make is pretty crazy. Jennifer make a lot of really great shots. It was awesome to stand at the other end and call line for those.”
Birchard started curling when she was six and has skipped her entire curling career. But adjusting to the third position, and having to sweep more than she’s used to, wasn’t so bad.
“I told the girls that my arms didn’t get sore until the Friday heading into the playoffs, which is pretty good. I did have some experience this year playing mixed doubles with Jason Gunnlaugson so I wasn’t totally new to it. My body was a little bit used to it heading in, otherwise I think I would have been quite sore.”
Birchard will stay with the team as an alternate for the World Championship in North Bay next month after Lawes returns from South Korea. In the meantime, she has some downtime to enjoy.
“I’m taking a couple weeks off and just totally relaxing, and that’s what the other girls are doing too. I know Dawn is going to Mexico. It’s been about a month and a half straight of curling,” Birchard explained. “It’s been very busy and I am just looking forward to just having some time to rest up, probably spend some time with my friends. I haven’t been around them too much. Just relax, maybe go to my cottage, who knows.”
Part of that relaxation will include watching the Olympics, which she is a big fan of and hopes to qualify for someday. Birchard said she’ll be rooting extra hard for her “pseudo-teammate” Lawes in mixed doubles, someone she said she has looked up to for a really long time.