Knights exceed expectations at nationals
Curler Claire Randell has a history of success at the national collegiate level.
In 2019, the 23-year-old native of Sharon was vice on a Brock University rink that won a silver medal at the USPORTS championships. After COVID and a back injury iced her university curling career, the kinesiology grad enrolled in the exercise science program at Niagara College and became the skip of Niagara College’s women’s team.
Randell led Niagara to a silver medal at the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association championships and last weekend followed that up with a silver medal at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championships.
Making up the team were Randell, vice Melissa Borowski from Welland, second Alexa Desrochers from Welland, lead Amelia Bender from Ayr and alternate Emma Hill from Dundalk.
The Second Team All-Star skip at the CCAA championships pointed to the team supporting each other as the main reason for its successful year.
“We all got along really well and we were able to support each other which was really helpful when we were actually playing,” she said. “When we got down, we were just able to pick each other up.”
The Niagara College rink headed into the nationals with no clue it would find itself on the second highest spot on the medal podium.
“We definitely wanted to go and have a good run but we didn’t know how far we would get in terms of actually qualifying for playoffs,” Randell said. “It was ‘OK, go out there and do our damn best, try as hard as we can and win as many games as possible’ but we didn’t know what to expect.”
Niagara went 6-1 in pool play and then advanced to the gold medal game with a 7-6 victory against Concordia in the semifinals.
“We played really well and we played well when we had to which was important,” she said. “We made the shots that mattered.”
In the final against the Augustana Vikings, Niagara grabbed a 2-0 lead and then Augustana went in front by scoring single points in three straight ends. Niagara added another two to lead 4-3 but Augustana tied it in the ninth end and stole a point in the final end to record the victory.
“It was a really, really hard-fought game, but unfortunately she made a nice shot on her last rock. It was back and forth the whole game,” Randell said.
The aforementioned shot was the Augustana skip making a hit and then rolling behind a guard in the four foot.
“I had to try and remove her from the four foot but she was over buried and it was a pretty hard shot that I had to make to try and win. I just didn’t pull it out at the end.”
It was a tough loss but a national silver medal — the first CCAA curling medal for Niagara College — was a nice consolation prize for a rink with no expectations.
Randell is graduating from Niagara this spring. She is heading into the workforce and hopes to get back into competitive curling next season. She has made it to provincial championships in the past but has never qualified for nationals
She loved her time at Niagara.
“I met some incredible people who I am going to be friends with for I know will be a long time. That is very important and professionally, this program has taught me how to set up for my career and enter a more professional setting which is obviously very nice.”
Randell appreciated Niagara College’s support of curling.
“There is not a lot of support for curling at some of the other schools. Curling is something that gets left behind a lot of the time and I think our school has done a good job of supporting all of its athletes equally.”