Rustlers see development across all programs

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April 16, 2015 8:15 AM

The Lakeland Rustlers men's soccer team was one of the most successful programs at Lakeland this past year, winning bronze at the ACAC championships this past year, while Stefan Cukovic (left) earned the ACAC Player of the Year award as well as a place on the All-Canadian team. Head coach Kevin Wagner (right) was also named ACAC and CCAA Coach of the Year in men's soccer.

Lakeland College doesn’t want to judge its past year based on medals and championships. Instead they would rather focus on the gradual improves of their entire athletic program holistically, and the success of individual athletes.

That isn’t to say Lakeland didn’t bring home championships. The men’s soccer team who hosted the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) championships this past year, won bronze at the event, missing out on a trip to nationals by a single victory. And the Rustlers futsal programs brought in two silver medals, as Lakeland again played host the ACAC championships, and both the men and women’s teams finished as runners-up.

The rowing team also brought in two gold medals at the Western Canadian University championships, while the rodeo team won four titles at the Canadian Colleges Finals rodeo.

Looking past championships, the women’s basketball team finished with a 22-2 record and a fourth place finish at provincials, both a new record for the women’s basketball program.

So across the board at Lakeland College, Rogan is seeing improvements in every program.

“We saw growth and improvement in certain areas,” said Rogan. “As a group I feel the coaches are really buying in to who we are and where we are going and believe in the three pillars of success.”

Individually, Lakeland had more ACAC All-Conference team members than ever before. Eleven women and eight men were on the final lists for best in the conference, while basketball players Jenni Tonita and Josh Magpantay each earned ACAC Rookie of the Year honours.

This season also saw two athletes named All-Canadians, as men’s soccer player Stefan Cukovic, who was also named ACAC Player of the Year, and men’s volleyball player Savana Walkingbear, were given the honour of being named to the Canadian team.

“Sometimes we look at the medals teams bring home and we don’t look at where the improvements was for those individual programs,” said Rogan.

The biggest challenge for Lakeland College has always been it’s lack of four-year programs that keep student-athletes at the school long term. It has been difficult for coaches to recruit players and plan for a long term future, considering a lot of students either have university aspirations, or finish their course in two years.

But now Lakeland is seeing its athletes stay longer, taking second programs in order to continue to play sports, and build not just a powerful ACAC team, but one that can be in the mix for a run at a national championship. Coaches and players are not just happy to have a jersey on with the Rustlers logo and compete while they attend school. They want to be winners here in Alberta, as well as across Canada.

“What I see now is our coaches are not satisfied with being competitive, they want to be winners,” said Rogan. “For a lot of them, winners is getting a medal at provincials or going on the nationals. Many years ago we just competed. We competed and that was fine, but because of the coaching staff we have and the student-athletes they are recruiting and the mindset of the department, we are getting away from just being happy competing to being competitive and being successful.

“Successful is continuing to build the programs so that we are building towards medals every year and hopefully moving on to nationals championships.”

Two of Lakeland’s coaches also were given high honours this year, as women’s basketball coach Chris King was named ACAC Coach of the Year, while soccer coach Kevin Wagner was given the ACAC Coach of the Year award for his work with the men’s soccer team, as well as the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s Coach of the Year award for the top men’s soccer coach in Canada.

There is also room for improvement said Rogan, who added the Rustlers are always continuing to build its programs and recruiting top class athletes. Coaches particularly are always wanting to better their efforts from the year before in hopes of bringing Lakeland it’s first national championship. With the calibre of coaches and their ability to bring in quality players, that first national banner could be just a short time away for the Rustlers athletics programs.

“There is always room to grow and develop and there is always things we can be doing better,” said Rogan. “It’s the kind of mindset of our coaches that there is always things they can do better. And they are going to work to that end for sure.”

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