60 Years of Athletics at Lethbridge College
Team and intramural sports have existed at Lethbridge College since 1957. Curling and bowling were the original sports followed by men’s basketball in 1958. The first women’s basketball team was formed in 1959 and in 1960-61 the men’s basketball team became the first to use the name Kodiaks. The Student Council wanted teams to “be named after a bear that was bigger” than the U of A’s mascot, the Golden Bear. However, the women would not adopt the name until October 1985. Before then, they went by numerous appellations including, the Cubs, Bobkittens, Kittens, Koalas, and from 1977-1985, the Kodiettes.
In 1962-63, Dr. Gary Bowie (1989 Builder) took over direction of the basketball program and, in 1964, helped organize the Western Inter-College Conference (WICC), the forerunner to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC). Though basketball was the inaugural WICC sport, the college fielded exhibition teams in volleyball, badminton, curling, cross country, and bowling. It was also under Bowie that the 1966-67 men’s basketball team (2015 Team) captured its first WICC championship–a feat they would repeat the following year (1967-68). The women’s team would win its first WICC championship in 1968-69.
Although basketball became the preeminent sport, the college did feature a men’s hockey team that competed inter-collegiately in 1967-68 and 1968-69. Also during this time, the badminton team (1967-69) the golf team (1966-67), and the men’s and women’s volleyball teams (1968-69) all won their first WICC/ACAC championships, while other titles came from men’s curling (1968-69) and bowling (1968-69, men’s and mixed).
The 1970s began with controversy as the college withdrew from ACAC competition with three notable exceptions: men’s and women’s cross country; wrestling; and most surprising, men’s and women’s canoeing. In December 1970, the ACAC and the three other western provinces formed the 4-West Conference to facilitate play between the championship teams from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The following year, the college became the first institution in Western Canada to feature an equestrian team and a drill team that combined music with floor gymnastics. However, due to budget constraints, the equestrian team was disbanded in 1975 and the drill team in 1977.
After returning to the ACAC in 1972, the men’s basketball team would win the ACAC championship five consecutive times between 1972-73 and 1976-77, including three 4-West championships (1972-73, 1973-74, and 1977-78). Likewise, in 1976-77, the women’s basketball team captured their second ACAC championship.
Though women’s bowling (1973-74 ACAC) and women’s curling (1975-76, 1976-77 ACAC 1976-77 4-West) saw success, it was badminton that secured the College’s first national championship when Sharon Davies (1998 Athlete) won gold at the Canadian Championships in 1978-79.
In 1976, the college hired Tim Tollestrup (2003 Builder) as Athletics Director, and under his coaching and influence, the athletics programs achieved even greater success, including the opening of the Val Matteotti (1989 Special) gymnasium in 1990.
The 1980s began with the women’s basketball team capturing their third ACAC championship in 1980-81. Indeed, under the coaching of John Jasiukiewicz (ACAC Hall of Fame) and led by star player, Laurie Ann Hockridge (ACAC Hall of Fame), the women would go on to win three more ACAC titles (1987-90) and back to back Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national titles in 1988-89 (1996 Team) and 1989-90.
Badminton would win three ACAC golds (1982-83 women’s singles and mixed doubles, 1984-85 women’s doubles) while curling (1984-85) and golf (1984-85, individual) would also bring home ACAC gold. After a long absence, cross country began its resurgence under the direction of Bertil Johansson (2008 Builder), with several individual and team ACAC titles (1985-86, 1987-89).
The 1990s saw the women’s basketball team continue their dominance by capturing ACAC titles in 1992-93 and again in 1993-94, while the men’s team claimed ACAC titles in 1991-92 and 1993-94. In 1991-92, the college won its last ACAC gold in badminton (mixed doubles) while cross country claimed the 1997-98 ACAC men’s individual champion. Moreover, the golf program earned no less than four individual ACAC titles (1995-96, 1997-00) and four women’s team championships (1998-02).
In 1994, the establishment of the women’s soccer program, founded and coached by Knud Peterson (2017 Special) and Alvin Tietz (1989 Builder), met with immediate success. The 1994-95 Kodiaks (1997 Team) burst onto the scene by capturing not only the ACAC championship, but also the CCAA national championship. These still stand as the sole ACAC and CCAA titles for either men’s or women’s soccer.
Cross country, golf, women’s basketball and curling would highlight Kodiak sports at the start of the new millennium. The women’s basketball team won three more ACAC championships (2003-04, 2006-07, 2008-09) along with a third CCAA national title in 2003-04 (2008 Team). Under Bertil Johansson the cross country team became a provincial and national force. The men’s team earned seven ACAC titles (2000-02, 2004-07, 2008-10) and four CCAA national championships (2004-05, 2005-06 [2010 Team], 2007-08, and 2008-09). From 2004 to 2009, the team won four ACAC individual gold medals and four individual CCAA gold medals. Additionally, Kip Kangogo (ACAC Hall of Fame) would win the CCAA Interprovincial Championship in 2000-01 and 2001-02, the event that preceded the current CCAA National Championship.
Women’s cross country enjoyed similar success, winning the 2003-04 CCAA national title (2007 Team) along with four ACAC individual gold medals (2002-04, 2007-09) and three CCAA individual national titles (2001-03, 2007-08).
In 2005-06, the women’s curling team won ACAC gold for the first time since 1976-77, and the women’s golf team continued to flourish with ACAC gold in 2000-01 and 2001-02. Individually in golf, the women captured one ACAC gold (2000-01) while the men claimed two (2002-03, 2004-05). Finally, the men’s program won the 2012-13 ACAC team title–its first since 1966-67–before claiming both the men’s and women’s individual titles in 2014-15.
Most recently, the women’s basketball program, coached by Brad Karren, has once again ascended to ACAC and CCAA supremacy. After winning gold at the 2014-15 ACAC championship, they completed an undefeated season by capturing both ACAC gold and CCAA national gold in 2016-17. The men would also win ACAC gold in 2014-15, their first championship since 1993-94.
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams continue to succeed by sweeping gold in 2015-16 as ACAC team champions. Indeed, this program has been so strong as to capture nine separate men’s ACAC individual championships (2005-07, 2008-09, 2009-12, 2013-16) and two women’s titles (2009-10, 2016-17).
Dominance in cross country has also transferred to indoor track. In its inaugural year of 2013-14, the men captured the ACAC team championship, and then repeated this feat one year later (2014-15). Individually, titles in the men’s 3000m (2013-15), 1500m (2014-15), 1000m (2014-15), 600m (2014-15), 300m (2014-15), and the 4x100m relay (2016-17) were also won. The women also won 300m in 2014-15.
From its beginnings in 1957 and through continuing success in a variety of sports today, Lethbridge College continues to set a high standard for sport in Alberta and beyond. Always ready to innovate, the college recently added futsal as competitive sport in the 2016-17 season. Ultimately, it has been successive generations of athletes, coaches, and administrators, who have, and continue to, bear the torch that shines brightly for all to see.