Having competed nationally multiple times already in her career, Dalemead ringette player Marla Wheeler is taking her skills to the international level.
The 18-year-old defenseman, who graduated from Chestermere High School in June, will feature for the Canadian junior national team at the 2019 Ringette World Championships, Nov. 25 to 30 in Burnaby, B.C.
“The girls I’m playing with, it’s the top 22 from around the country. [I’m excited to] play at the highest level I can right now, to see how that goes and feels,” she said.
It will be a short tournament – the team will play a series of games against Finland to determine the world junior champion.
“There are six countries in the whole thing, but Canada and Finland only play each other in the junior pool,” Wheeler said. “We’re the top two ringette countries, so we’ll play a best-of-three series against Finland, and that’s basically it.”
Wheeler, who also plays U19 AA ringette for the Calgary Blade, successfully tried out for the junior national team back in May. She was one of just three players from Alberta to crack the roster, which is mostly comprised of players from Quebec and Ontario.
Since the team was formed, Wheeler said, it has held three training camps to give players the opportunity to develop some chemistry heading into the world championships. Thanks to the team’s high level of talent, she said, developing a sense of camaraderie has gone smoothly.
“The level we’re able to compete at – being able to work together to get things done and execute properly – it’s just easier,” she said. “It’s just a completely different speed and game, that we play.”
Competing at the world championships will cap off a stellar year for the young ringette star. Last February, Wheeler competed on Team Alberta at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer. A few months later, her Calgary Rush U19 AA team earned bronze at the national championships in Prince Edward Island.
While Wheeler is on a different U19 AA team this season, with only a few of her former Rush teammates, she said chasing national glory is still the team’s objective. The Calgary Blade recently won gold at its first major tournament of the season, the Regina Elite AA Ringette Tournament, Nov. 1 to 3.
“It’s hard to say right now, as it’s still kind of early in the season,” she said, of the team’s chances of challenging for a podium place at nationals. “We still have more developing to do, but I think it’s a possibility, as long as we keep improving. We have good talent – we just have to put it together.”
A first-year student at the University of Calgary, Wheeler said she aims to continue her ringette career next year by trying out for teams in the National Ringette League.