Sept. 4, 2019 – Even by the Kodiaks cross country program’s own lofty standards, the 2018 season was one to remember. Heading into a new ACAC season, the most successful athletics program in Lethbridge College history hopes to once again reach those same heights.
It’s certainly possible as the Kodiaks most dangerous weapon returns for her third season. Sophia Nowicki won both conference and national gold medals as part of an undefeated season in 2018. Her efforts helped lead the Kodiaks women’s team to an ACAC gold medal and a CCAA silver, giving her valuable experience as she prepares to defend her titles.
“She’s so determined and self-motivated that we know she’s going to be ready and do very well,” says Simon Schaerz, Kodiaks head coach. “Other commitments over the summer limited her ability to train as much as she wanted, but she’ll be fine once she’s back in her regular routine. Come our first competition, she'll be right at the very front – I'd be surprised if it was anything but that.”
The Kodiaks depth will be tested with the departures of Emily Spencer and Salma Moreira – the team’s second- and third-ranked runners last season – but internal improvements and a strong recruiting class led by last year’s Alberta high school champion Rosie Bouchard leave Schaerz optimistic that the women’s team can again contend for an ACAC championship.
“There's no doubt in my mind that we will contend for a provincial championship and try to get on the podium again at nationals,” says Schaerz.
The Kodiaks men’s team finished on the podium last season, earning an ACAC bronze medal. Last season’s top performer, ACAC all-conference team member Timothy Kimaiyo, is not returning. But, the team is led by Connor Jackson, who will look to improve on his eighth place finish at last year’s ACAC championships and help boost the Kodiaks back towards the top end of the conference.
“Our goal is to come in the top three and qualify for nationals,” says Schaerz. “It would be good to get our newcomers that nationals experience, because for a lot of them, it would be their first kick at the can.”
Schaerz represents a new era for the Kodiaks as he takes over the cross country team from the legendary Bertil Johansson, who retired last fall following 32 years with the program. Schaerz joined the Kodiaks as an assistant coach in 2015 and was promoted to co-coach in 2017. He was the Kodiaks head coach for last year’s indoor track season.
The Kodiaks open the ACAC season on the road at Concordia University in Edmonton on Saturday. The team will then have three more races this season ahead of the ACAC championships on Oct. 26 in Calgary.