Lethbridge Coach Bertil Johansson retiring after 32 years

Lethbridge Coach Bertil Johansson retiring after 32 years

by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips

The year is 1987.

Brian Mulroney is Canada's Prime Minister.

Don Getty is the Premier of Alberta.

The Canadian loonie $1 coin is introduced.

Hockey superstar Sidney Crosby is born.

Bertil Johansson takes over the Lethbridge Kodiaks cross-country running program from Mary Wall.

Fast forward to 2018...September 18, 2018 to be more precise.

Independence Day in Chile.

It is Cheeseburger Day in the USA.

Lethbridge College Athletics announce that Bertil Johansson will be retiring after that Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Cross-Country Championships which were held November 10, 2018 at Oak Ridges Moraine just north of Toronto, Ontario and hosted by Seneca College.

What a retirement send off!

Lethbridge Kodiaks' Sophia Nowicki ran a 23:32 for a gold medal....four seconds faster than Simone Plourde of André-Grasset Phénix in the women's six kilometer race.

Nowicki had captured a bronze last year at the CCAA finals.

In the CCAA women's team event the Kodiaks would earn silver with the four best times of Nowicki, Emily Spencer, 13th, 25:15; Salma Moreira, 24th, 26:16 and in 29th Janelle Graham 26:26.Rounding out the team were Rebecca Sweeney (27:28) and Brooklyn Vogel (28:22).

An impressive conclusion to a career in which he guided student/athletes to do their best.

A quick look at ACAC and CCAA archives will show: eight ACAC team gold for men: 2015-2016, 2008-2010, 2004-2007, 2000-2002; five ACAC team gold for women 2015-2016, 2009-2010, 2000-2001, 1987-89.

The Kodiaks made a run at ACAC gold in men's and women's individual championships with a total of 12 and seven top podium spots respectively since 1987.

Among those hitting stride were several Kenyan runners including Willy Kimosop, three gold, 2008-2011; Edwin Kaitany, 2 gold, 2013-2015; Rogers Sergon 2 gold, 2005-2007 in men and Mary Kamau, 2 gold, 2002-2004 and Gladys Kochei, 2 gold, 2007-2009.

At the national CCAA platform, the Kodiaks brought home team medals in men's gold 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005; men's silver 2015, 2013 and with the women striking team gold in 2004, 2003, silver in the years 2018, 2009, 2005 and bronze in 2015, 2014.

The Kodiaks also had many individual medals at the CCAA level with gold status coming to Kimosop three times and Kamau twice.

Several articles have been written-to-date about his retirement with quotes from Johansson, so we thought it best to talk to his peers, cross-country coaches of the ACAC in regards to their thoughts about the legacy.

"Bertil has always strived for the highest standards possible with his program and the cross country running program in the ACAC. His many championship wins is evidence of this desire to be competitive and successful in his field. Because of his contributions to the sport, the Lethbridge Kodiaks have always been a tough team to beat," Kari Elliott, Red Deer College Kings/Queens.

"Bertil has built a winning program down in Lethbridge and most of us would love to build something like that at our respective institutions. I'm sure Simon (Schaerz) will continue this winning tradition and we wish Bertil all the best in his retirement," Matthew Norminton, Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder.

"We've known Bertil since the early 2000s', and his passion for the sport has always been an inspiration for us as colleagues. Bertil's long and dedicated coaching career has brought Lethbridge Kodiaks many victories in the ACAC and CCAA competitions over the years. He knows how to bring out the best in his athletes, year-after-year. Our cross country running conference has greatly benefited from Bertil's hard work, and it's been a pleasure to have been his colleague and watch his teams' successes. We thank him for all his excellent work over the years, and wish him all the best in his future endeavours," Robert Renman and Gerhard Lotz, University of Alberta Augustana Vikings.

"I perceived Bertil to be very supportive of his teams and his runners. He had some very good athletes and great results over the years he coached at Lethbridge. I wish him well in his retirement from coaching," Rick Scott, Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves.

Of the ACAC coaching legend, Kodiaks' Athletic Director Todd Caughlin had this to say in a media release: "Bertil's legacy is how he expanded the footprint of cross country running, not only at Lethbridge College, but at the ACAC and CCAA levels as well.

"Cross country running is now one of the strongest and highest-participation college sports in Canada, and a lot of that is due to Bertil's tireless work to promote the sport and provide opportunity to his student-athletes."