She started the season on the disabled list.
Up until almost two months ago, she was on a crutch.
But on Saturday, Kathie Jackson was on a mission that she and her team completed most emphatically.
Jackson skipped her team of third Leanne Eluik, second Jeannie Sheppard, and lead Michelle McFayden to a 7-3 victory over Samantha Mueller to capture the women’s ‘A’-event final for the second-straight year in the Fort Frances Curling Club’s playoffs.
“It feels great. I’m very happy for my team–they curled well this game,” enthused Jackson, who has won seven club titles dating back to 2000–the most of any local female curler.
Jackson was forced to undergo shoulder surgery that left her out of action for the first half of the season, with longtime rinkmate Teresa McFayden stepping in to fill the skip’s role admirably as the team went undefeated under her guidance.
Jackson returned to action after the Christmas break, but was severely limited by the crutch she had to use to get around.
She was able to shed the aid once the Fort Frances ladies’ bonspiel rolled around in late February, then was in fighting trim as she carried her team through the playoffs.
Standing in Jackson’s way was Mueller, who went into the clash shorthanded with only her sister, Sara, and fill-in Tirzah Keffer at her side.
It started well enough for Mueller, who stole one in the first end after Jackson was light on a raise attempt on her own stone.
Jackson got that one back in the second thanks to a perfect freeze with her first stone at the back of the button that led to Mueller being short with her last rock trying to find a way through the myriad of stones.
The key moment of the game came in the third end, which Jackson’s rink managed to manipulate into their favour–lying three to put the heat on Mueller.
A chip attempt by Mueller off a Jackson rock in the 12-foot went south, with the shooter rolling out and its intended target sticking around to hand a steal of three to Jackson and a 4-1 lead.
“Everything set up well that end for us and, unfortunately, Sam missed her last shot.”
Mueller looked to be good for at least one in the fourth with a rock on the back of the button. And it seemed an even surer bet when Jackson crashed into Mueller’s stone sitting in the 12-foot.
But in an effort to score multiple points to get right back into the game, Mueller’s final stone smacked into the rock Jackson just threw–pushing it onto the button while knocking her own shot rock out of the way for a two-point theft for Jackson and a commanding 6-1 lead.
Jackson switched to all-out defensive mode after that, keeping the house so clean it could have hosted a “Better Homes and Gardens” photo shoot.
Mueller tried to bump a Jackson stone back in the eight-foot in the fifth, but instead moved it closer to the button to surrender a seventh-straight point.
The game ended with true sportsmanship on Jackson’s part, as she helped Keffer sweep Mueller’s last rock down the ice on a draw for two that led to handshakes.
“It’s a little more gratifying to come back and win after being injured,” said Jackson, who said just being on the ice is reward enough after all these years of playing.
“I just love to curl, no matter if we win or lose,” she remarked.
“The thing I enjoy most about the ladies’ league is the social outing.”
That being said, Jackson already is thinking ahead to taking a more competitive approach to next season.
“I’m considering going for the Travelers [Curling Club Championship] again,” she mused, referring to the interclub showdown which she has won provincially twice in 2013 and 2015, finishing fourth representing Northern Ontario the latter year.
“There’s not enough time or money to practice and play the higher-level events we would need to to compete in the Scotties [provincial women’s championship],” she added.
“Where we live geographically makes it difficult.”
Jackson almost pulled off an impressive double but lost the grand aggregate final between the champions of the two-weeknight ladies’ leagues 8-5 to Barb Roy and her team of third Nancy Evans, second Diane Bonot, lead Trudy Badiuk, and fifth Patty Sekulich.
Meanwhile, the ladies ‘B’-event final was the polar opposite of the ‘A’ one.
Skip Anika Beaudry and fellow Muskies Ashley Payne at third, second Andrea Schram, and lead Sammy Stone trailed 5-4 after the seventh to Bonnie Mueller.
With her cousin, Tory, and Katrina Slomke both unavailable for the final, Beaudry settled for one in the eighth as she bumped her own stone on a runback for two just a little too hard and had to settle for one.
The game wound up being settled thanks to an outstanding shot inspired by a friendly wager between teammates.
Mueller had Beaudry in a heap of trouble in the extra end, lying four behind a wall of guards, when Schram playfully twisted her skip’s arm.
“I’m going to tell her to try the 10-foot runback,” Schram chortled to Stone before scurrying down the ice to present her plan to Beaudry.
“If I do this and don’t make the shot, you owe me an ice cream!” retorted Beaudry upon giving in to Schram’s wish.
The shot-in-the-dark turned out to be the shot-of-the-day as Beaudry ran her stone sitting well in front of the house all the way to the button, while knocking Mueller’s closest shot stone out of the way, to lie one.
“I want a Blizzard out of that!” a triumphant Schram declared to her grinning skip.
Mueller tried to raise her own stone into the house to save the game, but wound up punching it far too long to give Beaudry the steal of one and a 6-5 victory.
The ‘C’ final also came down the wire.
Kate Norman, skipping for the absent Hope Mosbeck and playing alongside third Bev Gushulak, second Andrea Coyle, and lead Jennifer Berti, had two stones protected well in the four-foot and eight-foot as she tried to overcome a 5-4 deficit while holding last rock.
Opposing skip Donna Bohler needed to draw close to the button but came up short.
As such, Norman didn’t have to throw her last rock after locking up the two-ender and closing out the 6-5 win.