NAME: Kelly Wiebe (Class of 2020-21)
SPORT: Cross country / track & field
YEARS ACTIVE: 2007-13
2012 CIS cross country individual champion
Two-time CW individual champion ('09, ’10 and ’12)
Three-time CW team champion (’09 XC, ’10 & ’11 T&F)
Competed at three World XC Championships ('11, '13, '15)
In any sport, surprises are part of the script.
And sometimes those surprises, no matter how bizarre (or hilarious), can be springboards to bigger and better things.
Count Canada West hall of famer Kelly Wiebe as someone with one of those moments.
“I went to provincials that year and I remember in the last 100 metres, I got outsprinted by a guy with a cigarette in his mouth,” laughed Wiebe, as he recalled his first provincial championship as a Grade 10 student.
“I couldn’t believe it. This guy was just sprinting me down. I think he just came out of the bushes. I think he was just hiding there and he lit up a cigarette and took off and passed me...I was so mad at myself, but I think that was my lowest placing (59th) in a cross country race from that point forward.”
“It just inspired me to try harder and get better. I said to myself ‘man, there can’t be that many guys better than me in the province.’ From then forward I just kept pushing myself and training harder. I just got hooked.”
Encouraged by a friend in Grade 10 to try cross country, it didn’t take long for Wiebe to sink his teeth into the sport, channelling his competitive juices.
After two more years of high school, the Swift Current, Saskatchewan product found himself with an opportunity to carry on his running career at the next level with the Regina Cougars.
A scholarship offer from head coach Ted Jaleta proved to be a game changer for Wiebe, helping make his academic and athletic dreams a reality.
While Jaleta left the program prior to Wiebe’s first season, the new recruit was in good hands with distance coach Graeme McMaster.
“He ended up being closer to family and he still is. He put everything into the sport. He had the competitive nature that I have, the passion, and he did everything out of the goodness of his heart and is just a great coach,” Wiebe said.
Under McMaster’s tutelage Wiebe and the Cougars men’s cross country team enjoyed great success, claiming the CW team title in 2009.
Individually, Wiebe captured two CW cross country titles (2010, 2012), four CW gold medals in the 3000-metres, and was the 2012 CIS individual cross country champion, all while being a three-time Academic All-Canadian.
Those university successes helped open doors Wiebe likely wouldn’t have dreamed possible when he ran his first race in a Rosetown farmer's field, including three World Cross Country Championship appearances (2011, 2013, 2015) for Canada.
And while one may think Wiebe’s list of individual success owed to his own drive, the engineering grad is quick to credit his team.
“My best years were in Regina with my awesome team and therapists and coaching. All of those international appearances…that was all because of Graeme and his genius with running,” explained Wiebe.
Help from the University of Regina didn’t stop with McMaster, or Wiebe’s teammates – it went all the way to the top.
Vianne Timmons, who was U of R president from 2008 to 2019, was a champion for athletics during her tenure, with her impact reaching countless student-athletes, including Wiebe.
“The University of Regina helped me out so much getting to those championships,” pointed out Wiebe, whose best finish was 50th overall in 2015.
“Vianne Timmons was instrumental in getting me to those championships. She made it clear that she wanted her university athletes to shine at the international level. She gave me such a great opportunity to get to those championships. The memories that I got on those teams, I mean, it’s going to be very hard to replicate.”
While Wiebe’s competitive running career, which also included a win at the 2012 Vancouver Sun Run and gold medal in the 10,000 metres at the 2015 Canadian Track & Field Championships, is now complete, the rewards of his time as a student-athlete continue.
Working as an engineer in Regina, his passion for physical activity persists, thanks in no small part to his time and the teammates he connected with as a Cougar.
“Rewarding is pretty much the best word I can use to sum up my career at the U of R and internationally after – just how rewarding everything was. I’m super appreciative of that.”
Written by Evan Daum