Veteran Vernon skip Mark Longworth (left) will have home-ice advantage as the B.C. Senior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships start Tuesday at the Vernon Curling Club. (Black Press - file photo)

Top senior curlers converge on Vernon

Vernon Curling Club hosts B.C. Senior Men’s and Women’s finals, starting Tuesday.

The defending champs are back to try and retain their titles as the B.C. Senior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships begin Tuesday at the Vernon Curling Club.

Marilou Richter’s Okanagan team from Penticton and Kelowna and Wes Craig’s foursome from Duncan/Nanaimo are returning the same rinks that won provincial titles a year ago in Trail.

Craig and his Duncan/Nanaimo squad of third Steve Waatainen, second Keith Clarke and lead Craig Burton will be part of an eight-rink field that includes the Vernon/Lake Country quartet skipped by veteran Mark Longworth, who is coming off a top-four finish at the recent B.C. men’s championship in Cranbrook.

Longworth is joined by third Dean Mackney, second Greg Hamilton and lead Ron McDougall. He opens up Tuesday in the first draw at 9:30 a.m. against Craig, a four-time provincial champion.

“This is going to be a very competitive field,” said Longworth, who finished fourth in Duncan two years ago with the same rink. “Wes and I have curled against each other for years in men’s and seniors.”

Playing at home will be a big plus for Longworth and his rink.

“In 2015 (B.C. men’s) we made the playoffs,” said Longworth. “We’ve probably spent more time preparing and practising for this seniors event than any other I’ve taken part in.”

Longworth’s team won three straight games to take the A event at the B.C. senior men’s qualifier in Kamloops which had one of the largest rinks for an open bonspiel in recent memory.

The field also includes three-time champ Craig Leine of Langley, former Vernon resident Tom Buchy of Kimberley, whose third is former B.C. champion men’s skip Deane Horning, and former world champ Brent Pierce of New Westminster.

Richter will carry the Okanagan’s hopes in the seven-team women’s field. She is supported by third Dawn Everest, second Cindy Curtain and lead Deirdre Riley. Richter opens up Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. against Marnie Jepsen of New Westminster.

The field also includes four-time champ Penny Shantz of Nanaimo.

Draws are at 9:30 a.m and 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; 9 a.m. on Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday; and the finals are slated for 10 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 23. The top-three teams in each event after the preliminary round make the playoffs.

The champions will represent B.C. at the Everest Canadian Senior Championships March 16-23 in Portage la Prairie, Man.

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