The Lethbridge College Kodiaks cross country team has gold medal aspirations as it gets set for the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) national championship this weekend in Toronto. The races, hosted by Seneca College, will officially mark the conclusion of the coaching career of Bertil Johansson, the most decorated cross country coach in Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) history.
The Kodiaks won three medals at the ACAC championships on Oct. 27 in Vermilion. The women’s team and individual star Sophia Nowicki both won gold, while the men’s team earned a bronze.
“We have had three weeks of excellent training and everybody is at their peak in their performance and form right now,” says Johansson. “Come Saturday, we’re going to growl. We’re going to have the teams ready to fire and they’re going to go crazy on the course.”
The women’s team is first in the CCAA national rankings heading into this weekend’s Canadian championship. Nowicki (second year, Nursing, Bragg Creek) has won every race she has competed in this season and is one of the favourites for a national gold medal. She is surrounded by a strong core of teammates who have the Kodiaks in contention for a team gold medal as well.
“I want to win nationals as a team so badly, I think I’m almost more excited for a national title as a team than individually,” says Nowicki. “I don’t want to go in there thinking it will be handed to me because it definitely won’t be and I’ll really have to work for it, because I had to work at ACACs too. But my mindset is just to give it my all.”
ACAC all-conference team member Emily Spencer (third year, Nursing, Calgary), Salma Moreira (third year, General Studies, Lethbridge) and Janelle Graham (third year, Criminal Justice – Policing, Olds) all placed for the Kodiaks at the ACAC championships to secure the win for the Kodiaks over Red Deer College. Graham turned it on with a sprint in the final metres to catch a Queens’ runner and earn the Kodiaks the title.
On the men’s side, Timothy Kimaiyo (first year, General Studies, Kenya) earned ACAC all-conference team honours by finishing sixth at the conference championships. Connor Jackson (first year, General Studies, Surrey, B.C.) was eighth as the Kodiaks earned a bronze medal with their best performance of the season.
Johansson, meanwhile, is preparing his team for the final time, as he will retire following this season. In 32 seasons with the Kodiaks, Johansson has won more than 100 individual and team ACAC and CCAA medals. He has coached his runners to seven individual CCAA championships and seven team CCAA championships and would love to add more in his final appearance.
“It will sink in once I finish that race and we’re heading home,” says Johansson. “I appreciate the opportunity that Lethbridge College has given us that we can go to nationals, and that we have the teams that can qualify to go.”
RACE DETAILS: The 6-km women’s race is at noon EST (10 a.m. MST) on Saturday, followed by the men’s 8-km race at 1 p.m. EST (11 a.m. MST) in Toronto. A webcast and results will be available on the.
LISTEN: Bertil Johansson and Sophia Nowicki preview the CCAA championships.
Bertil Johansson audio
- 0:00 Look back at 32 years of coaching
- 0:30 Kodiaks team preparation for CCAA nationals
- 0:56 Preview of the Kodiaks women's team
- 1:30 CCAA expectations for Sophia Nowicki
- 2:01 Thinking about the end of his Kodiaks career
Sophia Nowicki audio
- 0:00 Wanting to win national team championship
- 0:21 Individual expectations for CCAA championships
- 0:40 Thoughts on Bertil's final race