TRURO – A third national title means Karlee Burgess has made junior curling history.
Burgess, 21, earned her third Canadian title when Manitoba’s Mackenzie Zacharias rink defeated Albert in the final game of the Canadian junior women’s curling championships last month in B.C. The Truro native threw third for Team Zacharias, and with the win is off to the world championships in Russia.
“The last couple of days have been pretty cool,” said Burgess, during a phone interview from Manitoba. “I haven’t really thought about it too much, but quite a few people have been mentioning it. I’ve just been lucky enough to be on teams with girls with the same desire, and the same work ethic to win.”
This national title is added to her others she captured – third for Mary Fay in 2016, and again with Kaitlyn Jones in 2018.
Burgess credited her former teammates on both teams, as well as her coach, Andrew Atherton, for helping her get where she’s at today.
“A lot goes out to them,” she said. “Yes, I’ve been lucky to find teammates with the same work ethic and desire for winning as I have, but I’m also lucky enough to have been young enough to do all this as a junior.”
Studying kinesiology at Dalhousie University, Burgess moved to Manitoba (her school studies from Manitoba will transfer back to Dal) to curl with the Zacharias rink after Team Jones went their separate ways. That included leaving her cousin and best friend, Lindsey Burgess.
“Moving to Manitoba was super smooth,” Burgess said. “Being away from my family has been a little different – I was always just an hour away – but with these girls, it’s been so smooth.”
She said she spoke with Lauren Lenentine, with whom she curled on Team Jones, if she wanted to join her and Team Zacharias in Manitoba, and Lenentine agreed.
“She knew of the two Zacharias girls (Mackenzie and Emily) from nationals last year, and she knew of their potential, just as I saw,” said Burgess. “It’s been great. The two Zacharias girls and coach Sheldon Zacharias have been so easy to get along with.”
The opportunities for curling itself was something Burgess had to get used to in Manitoba. There are more chances to play – almost every weekend – but also more teams vying for the spot.
Burgess said the team played in a few junior and women’s cash spiels, winning some of them. When it came to provincials, 16 teams were looking to advance, so teams needed to qualify. In Nova Scotia, says Burgess, there were less teams, so provincial qualifiers weren’t available.
“It was different, but the season had been really good,” she said.
One of the biggest things she had to get used to was not playing with Lindsey.
“Lindsey and I are really close, and I love that aspect. It was so different playing against her on a national level. It was more intense.”
Lindsey said playing against Karlee wasn’t as odd as people think.
“That first game, it can be not “normal”. We played together for two years, but we played against each other a lot when we were younger. It doesn’t matter who we are playing against, we just focus on our own shots.”
Burgess loved having Lindsey at nationals with Nova Scotia’s Taylour Stevens team, which settled for bronze in the competition.
The girls’ grandparents, Jim and Judy Burgess, were in the stands cheering on their granddaughters while wearing personalized jackets. The back of the jackets pictured the two Burgess girls sweeping together, with Karlee wearing a Manitoba shirt, while Lindsey was wearing one for Nova Scotia.
“It was so great having Lindsey there, but as soon as we were on the ice, we had our game faces on. We ignored the fact we’re cousins and best friends.”
Lindsey said she and her teammates are proud to have represented the province, and happy with winning bronze.
“Since we are a new team this year, we’re proud to have made it into the playoffs,” said Lindsey. “Yes, we are disappointed we lost in the semi-finals because we played to win, but we’re still proud to have earned bronze.”
She said watching her cousin win her third national junior title was a special night.
“If anyone was going to set a record, I knew it was going to be her. I have first-hand knowledge of how hard she works, and she deserves it. It was a nice moment to be able to see that.”
When it comes to worlds, Burgess is “super excited” to have her mother and father both making the trek to Russia for worlds, which begin Feb. 15 in Krasnoyarsk.
“Especially where it’s my last world juniors,” said Burgess.
Along with the Burgess clan, Team Zacharias will have a crowd of familial supporters.
For both Burgess curlers, this was their final year at the junior level. Both have intentions of continuing in the women’s league, however nothing has been finalized yet in terms of teams.
Burgess was named a first-team all-star at third during the national championship, while Lindsey earned the Ken Watson Sportsmanship Award voted on by the players.