Contrary to popular belief, hockey isn’t the only sport hitting the ice in Fredericton this fall. This season, the campus Booster Juice outlet is teaming up with Team Ward, a four-woman team of students who are taking the local curling circuit by storm.
“Our team is made up of four University of New Brunswick students,” said team skip Cathlia Ward, a third-year Renaissance College student. “Our lead is Katie Forward, a third-year biochemistry student; our second is my sister Jamie Ward, a first-year kinesiology student; and Marie-Elaine Little plays third, and is in her first year studying in the faculty of business.”
Although the team is making their collective debut this season, Katie and Cathlia have played together for 10 years and competed in the same league last year.
“Our team came together as we had two former teammates who had aged out of the junior category, and we were searching for new members,” said Cathlia. “My sister was an easy choice for me, as I had always wanted the opportunity to play alongside her in a competitive setting.”
The women were actively seeking a fourth member to round out the team when they were contacted by Little, an avid curler who planned to attend UNB this fall.
“Mel came to visit the school and we had the chance to practice together. Everything really jelled immediately and we had instant chemistry on the ice. We knew right away that we had found the fourth member of our team.”
Because of their geographical location on the east coast of Canada, there are less tournament opportunities for Team Ward. While this could prove as a disadvantage when faced with teams on a national level, the four women are self-motivated and maintain a heavy practice schedule to ensure they are game-ready.
“Our overall goal would absolutely be to represent the province at the Junior Nationals Competition, which is being held in Corner Brook, Newfoundland at the end of January,” said Cathlia. “We’re definitely looking to peak early next year in order to win provincials, but there’s a lot of stepping stones leading up to that.”
The team will be competing in a large spiel at the end of this month in Ottawa, followed by the provincial qualifiers in late November.
For Cathlia, curling is a family affair. It’s no small coincidence, then, that she has become involved in this challenging winter sport.
“One of my favourite parts of curling is that it’s a family-oriented sport, and my family’s history with the sport has definitely contributed to my love of the game,” she said.
The Ward sisters are the third generation in their family to succeed on the ice. Their grandfather was a provincial champion in 1973 and represented Newfoundland and Labrador at the Brier Cup — the sport’s most prestigious event. Exactly 30 years later, his son Mark, a three-time provincial champion in his own right, competed at the same high-level tournament.
As if that wasn’t enough, even their parents’ first meeting was fuelled by their shared love of the game. Ward’s father was a Learn To Curl instructor when he met his future wife, who was interested in picking up the sport. The rest, as Cathlia says, is history.
Although the pressure to compete can sometimes be overwhelming when growing up in a sporting dynasty, Cathlia says her family has been nothing but supportive of her ambitions.
“My whole family curls, so when Jamie and I were very young they put us on the ice to see if we’d enjoy the sport. The decision to compete was never pushed upon us; we just both happened to fall in love with the game of curling.”
Cathlia said that the team’s partnership with Booster Juice began over social media — specifically, when the company tweeted out to students asking how they were spending time over the strike.
“Last year when we were at the Canadian national championship, Katie tweeted a picture of the arena back at Booster Juice,” she said. “We weren’t expecting any response at all, but then Booster Juice began following our progress at the competition, and tweeting our results. They definitely went above and beyond anything that we had expected.”
For Michael Coleman, co-owner of UNB’s Booster Juice outlet, the decision to support Team Ward was very simple.
“My business partner Rick Allen and I are both very proud UNB grads,” explained Coleman. “We feel it’s important to support the university community however we can.”
As the only food service provider on campus not operated by Sodexo, the business partners have more flexibility to do creative and fun activities to support teams, residences, charities and students.
“When I had the chance to meet Team Ward I was so impressed with how they represented themselves,” said Coleman. “They are elite athletes, dedicated students and great people. I knew they would be great ambassadors for the Booster Juice brand on campus.”
Booster Juice is also a proud sponsor of the Varsity Reds and has worked with a number of residences to support their charitable partnerships. Coleman said they are always looking for ways to associate their brand with great people and great causes.