First published in the Lethbridge Herald Wednesday, March 4, 2020.
For as long as people remember Lethbridge has been a hot spot for sport, producing numerous provincial, national and international level athletes.
In current-day Lethbridge, we are lucky enough to boast two separate collegiate institution sport programs, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks and the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, as well as the Prairie Baseball Academy which features players from both schools, and players from the Lethbridge Bulls and Lethbridge Hurricanes that can also attend either institution.
These five phenomenal athletic programs attract athletes from across North America, all coming to this area to represent our city at their respective levels of competition. We have a prime opportunity this July to tell our story to 2,250 athletes as they compete in the Lethbridge 2020 Alberta Summer Games.
Post-secondary sports started in Lethbridge in the fall of 1957 at the Lethbridge Community College. Curling and bowling were the first sports represented by LCC athletes, which was then followed by the men’s and women’s basketball programs, in 1958 and 1959 respectively. During the 1960-61 season, the men’s basketball team was the first to adopt the team name of Kodiaks.
According to the Kodiak’s website, the Student Council at the time “wanted teams to be named after a bear that was bigger” than the University of Alberta’s Golden Bear mascot. Through the following decade, the Kodiaks basketball teams and program directors were instrumental in creating the Western Inter-College Conference (WICC), which was the processor to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC). Future and current Kodiak athletes can compete in a variety of different sports, including basketball, cross country, futsal, indoor track, soccer and volleyball, all having male and female teams.
Throughout the years, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks have successfully grown into one of the most sought-out schools in the ACAC, exhibiting an impressive 111 ACAC Championships, 65 Academic Canadians and 22 National Championships.
The now-storied history of collegiate athletics in Southern Alberta expanded yet again in the fall of 1967 when the University of Lethbridge opened its doors. As the area was already becoming known as a basketball hot spot, it was the easiest choice for the new program and allowed the then Bobcats to be competitive in its inaugural year. Other sports that allowed the school to satisfy membership obligations to compete in the year-end league tournament were volleyball, wrestling, badminton, judo, and curling.
It was not until a couple years later that the program adopted the Pronghorn identity. By the time Judo left the Canada West Universities Athletic Association at the beginning of the 1980s, the U of L won back to back conference championships the final two seasons of collegiate competition, 1978-79 and 1979-80.
Fast forward fifty years, and the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns is now represented on the varsity level by the following teams: men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, hockey, track and field, swimming, and a women’s rugby team.
At the club level, the program has men’s and women’s curling teams, a co-ed golf team and a women’s ringette team. The Pronghorns have won four national championships, once in men’s hockey (1994) and three women’s rugby championships (2007, 2008, 2009), as well as numerous Canada West conference and division titles, followed by over 1,100 Academic All-Canadians since the implementation of the student-athlete recognition program in 1990.
Lethbridge has a rich history of athletic and academic history everywhere you look. Whether it be at the University of Lethbridge or Lethbridge College, there are many successful collegiate student-athletes that continue to showcase some of the best that we have to offer on stages across the globe. If you ever get the chance, be sure to check any of these incredible programs and see what the athletes of Lethbridge have to offer.
For more local sport information visit www.lethbridgesportcouncil.ca
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Posted March 4, 2020