Kaun rink ready for all-Ontarios

David Kaun’s high school curling career has come full circle.
After three years of frustration, Kaun is back competing at the all-Ontario championships this week for the first time since his freshman year.
The Muskie skip—along with third Mike Badiuk, second Sean Murray, lead Travis Showalter, and alternate Ben Robinson—qualified for the four-day competition being held in Mississauga by defeating the Westgate Tigers in a sudden-death playoff to capture the NWOSSAA crown earlier this month in Thunder Bay.
The accomplishment marked the end of a long journey back to high school curling’s biggest stage.
The current Muskie skip served as lead on Adam Bolen’s OFSAA-qualifying rink five years ago in London.
Despite winning just one game and failing to advance past the round-robin stage of the tournament, the experience proved pivotal in sparking a desire within Kaun to learn the finer points of the game and to maximize his potential on the ice.
Now in his senior year at Fort High, the much-improved 19-year-old is looking forward to having a second chance at competing at the all-Ontarios.
“The first time, I was very new when it came to curling,” Kaun explained. “I was just the lead; I didn’t know much about strategy or anything.”
While Kaun has seen improvements in just about every aspect of his game over the years, he cited the ability to keep his emotions in check during competition as being the most important factor in his recent success.
“I’ve learned that you just have to keep your cool,” he remarked. “Don’t get excited at missed shots. Even if they make an incredible shot, you have to keep your cool. You can’t get over-anxious.
“It’s just a game,” he stressed, before adding, “but it’s a long ride home if you lose.”
Muskie curling coach Tom Fry has worked with Kaun for several years and has marvelled at the young skip’s dedication and desire to improve his game.
“Dave has been very dedicated to improving his delivery,” Fry said. “He went away to summer camp two years in a row and that did amazing things for him.
“He continues to work on it pretty much on a daily basis,” Fry added. “He’s out there throwing rocks as often as he can be.
“He wanted to get back to OFSAA and dedicated his growth [as a curler] to getting there.
“It’s been an amazing thing to watch.”
But while Kaun’s play has been an important factor in the success of the Muskie rink, the contributions of his teammates should not be overlooked.
Each member has made important shots over the course of the season and will be required to do so again if the rink is to enjoy success in Mississauga.
Of Kaun’s four teammates, Murray’s presence on the team could prove to be especially beneficial as he is the only other member of the rink (aside from Kaun) who has previous experience at OFSAA.
“My second [Sean Murray] went [to the all-Ontarios] as a third last year,” Kaun explained. “He just came to Fort this year. He’s from Iroquois Falls.
“He has quite a bit of experience and it’s good to have that knowledge on the team.”
“He [Murray] definitely has some maturity that goes along from having played there and he’s been a stabilizing influence,” echoed Fry.
Despite having never competed at OFSAA, both Badiuk and Showalter are no strangers to competing at a high level. Both were members of the Fort Frances Curling Club squad that qualified for the junior provincial championships this past January.
“I think my third, Mike Badiuk, is fine,” Kaun said of teammate’s lack of experience at OFSAA. “He’s been to [junior boys’] provincials with us this year so I don’t think he’ll have too much of a problem.
“Our lead, Travis [Showalter], is just excited to go,” added Kaun. “He’s just right pumped. He’s been shooting well all year so I don’t expect a problem with him.”
Kaun’s optimistic view is tempered somewhat by the reality that he and his teammates are about to face some of the toughest competition they’ve seen this season.
“Basically, the Thunder Bay teams we played [at NWOSSAA] were really good and I expect these teams to be equally as good, if not better,” Kaun reasoned.
“We’re going to have to pick up our game a little bit.
“I think the hardest part this week is going to be the round-robin and making it out of our pool,” he added. “If we can make it out of our pool, then I think we have a lot better chance of getting to the gold [medal game].
“We have to play aggressively,” Kaun stressed. “Basically, all it comes down to is that we have to make our shots.”
Kaun’s views are shared by Fry, who believes the Muskie rink will have success if they remain focused on the task at hand.
“I honestly believe that they can qualify for the [playoff] round,” he enthused. “They have to play their ‘A’ game and they have to keep the mental thing in perspective—not get ahead of themselves, play one shot as a time, and don’t get too fancy.”
Kaun began his quest for an all-Ontario championship with a pair of round-robin games this morning (Wednesday).
He took on Darcy Airhart’s Pope John Paul II C.S.S. Panthers in the early draw before facing Steven Burgess’ Parkside C.I. Stampeders in the afternoon one.
The Muskies then return to action tomorrow (Thursday) with a pair of games.
Kaun first will face Mackenzie Dixon’s Loyalist Collegiate & Vocational Institute Lancers in the early draw at 8 a.m. (EDT) before wrapping up the round-robin against Jake Walker’s Haliburton Highlands S.S. at 1 p.m. (EDT).
The top two teams in each of the four pools following the round-robin will advance to the quarter-finals, which are scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m. (EDT).