LETHBRIDGE – Members of the Lethbridge College Kodiaks cross country team have gold medal aspirations as they prepare for the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) national championship in Toronto this weekend.
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 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.
Johansson says they’ve had three weeks of excellent training, and everybody is at their peak in their performance and form right now.
“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, the second-year stalwart from Bragg Creek, has won every race she has competed in this season and is one of the favourites for a national gold medal.
She’s 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,” Nowicki said. “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, Salma Moreira, and Janelle Graham all placed for the Kodiaks at the ACAC championships to secure the win for the Kodiaks over Red Deer College.
On the men’s side, Timothy Kimaiyo earned ACAC all-conference team honours by finishing sixth at the conference championships. Connor Jackson 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.
Johansson says it will sink in once the race is finished and they’re heading home.
“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,” Johansson added.
The 6-km women’s race is at 10 a.m. MST on Saturday, followed by the men’s 8-km race at 11 a.m. MST in Toronto.
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