By Woodard, Dale on October 25, 2019.
The Lethbridge College Kodiaks women’s cross county running team heads into provincials as number one in the country.
A little inter-team competition will do that.
The Kodiaks women’s and men’s teams lace up and head off to Calgary for the SAIT Trojans-hosted Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship Saturday.
Riding that number-one national ranking, the Kodiaks women look to defend their ACAC title and return to the Canadian stage, while the men’s team also looks for the necessary times that will allow them to follow.
Kodiaks head coach Simon Schaerz noted his women’s team that pushed themselves from within to earn their top ranking.
“I think as a coach I can’t envision a better position to be in,” he said. “We’ve got a returning national champion in Sophia Nowicki, who is undefeated. We have a new addition to the team in Rosie Bouchard. As a coach, every day, whether it’s a meet or even at practices there’s constantly competition and that propels everybody to do so much better. Only the top-six get to go to nationals, so they all want to be in the top-six group. So that means nobody can afford to be complacent. So that inter-team competition, as I call it, really pushes everybody to a better level. The bottom (runners) have come up and they’re finishing higher and higher as the season goes on.”
Nowicki hasn’t lost an ACAC or CCAA sanctioned race in two seasons, a winning streak of nine straight events.
Bouchard has two podium finishes this season.
A deep roster that includes Anna LeBlanc, Vildana Rekic, Janelle Graham, Sydney Crowe and Rebecca Sweeney gives the Kodiaks plenty of weapons as they face a challenge from Red Deer College for the ACAC title.
“It’ll be enough to beat Red Deer, because Red Deer is in the same position,” said Schaerz. “They don’t have a runner like Sophia, but they have a core group of three or four athletes that are really, really good and really strong and they will finish in the top-10. The numbers are going to be close. We’ll probably be separated by just a handful of points.”
Heading into the first ACAC Grand Prix race in early-September, Schaerz said he figured his women’s team would rank high, but didn’t anticipate the number-one seed.
“At the beginning of the season, to be honest, I knew my expectations of Sophia were quite high as well with Rosie,” he said.
“With everyone else, I figured we were going to lack a strong number three or number four on the team and of course the top-four score points. We wanted the top-four to be really strong and I didn’t really see a clear, strong third and fourth. So at that point if you would’ve asked me I would have told you we’ll be in the top-five in the country. But I didn’t think we would be number one.”
On the men’s side, the Kodiaks have fought for the top of the podium alongside with SAIT, Red Deer and Augustana with the teams taking turns finishing atop the podium.
The Kodiaks are ninth in the CCAA rankings.
Connor Jackson has consistently been the Kodiaks top finisher this season and won his first ACAC podium finish when he placed second at a Grand Prix hosted by SAIT last month.
Cooper Cheshire has posted multiple top-10 finishes this season, while Justin Fisher and Tyler Larkin give the Kodiaks strong support.
Veteran Danny Robdrup has raced a reduced schedule this season, but will available this weekend in Calgary.
“I think Connor has made huge strides since last year and I fully expect him to contend for a medal this weekend,” said Schaerz. “It’s just a matter of running a smart race. We have guys like Danny and Tyler who have done really well for us.”
“Cooper has been our consistent number two and Justin, those two guys are just going to continue to improve. It’s definitely a building year for the guys and we’re looking to add a few more talented runners next year. Honestly, I expected less of the guys. I didn’t think they would be able to contend for a medal at the ACAC championship this year and we are certainly right there. We’re only nine points behind second place. So they have a pretty good chance of qualifying for nationals. They have to finish in the top-three at provincials go to Nationals. So they stand a pretty good chance of qualifying. It’s pretty exciting.”
The women’s race begins at noon Saturday, followed by the men’s race at 1 p.m. Results will be available on the championship’s website at http://www.acac.ab.ca/tournament/xc/2019-20/index.
The Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves host this year’s CCAA championship Nov. 8-9.
Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter