Wendel McRaven enters his third year at the helm of the Illinois men's cross country team and distance program. McRaven looks to see continued progress and change in the right direction this upcoming season.
This past season under the guidance of McRaven, the Illini took giant steps in accomplishing the team goals of getting to nationals and being an elite Big Ten team. The Orange and Blue finished 27 points shy of third place at regionals. The Illini were led by senior Jason Bill, who made his third appearance at the NCAA Championships, finishing 119th pace overall.
The 2006-07 season also saw the development of freshmen Jeremy Stevens and Jacob Nachel under McRaven's leadership. Stevens snagged first place in his first two collegiate meets. Nachel found success in the spring at the US Junior National Championships where he finished fifth in the 5,000 meters. Nachel recorded a personal 5000m time of 14:19.10, the third fastest time for an under-20 athlete in the United States.
Another big breakthrough on the track occurred with Trent Hoerr. Hoerr recorded a personal best in the 10,000 meters of 28:55.22 at the Stanford Invitational. This time is the second-fastest time in UI school history and ranked him 18th among collegiate performers in 2007. Hoerr went on to earn runner-up honors in the Big Ten 10,000 and finish 21st at the NCAA national championships.
In 2005, McRaven, who is familiar with rebuilding programs, took several small steps in laying the foundation for the future success of the Illini. He guided walk-on Dan Stock from obscurity to individually qualifying for the NCAA national cross country championships. On the track, the Illini made several forays into the all-time top-10 lists. The highlight being the success of Trent Hoerr, who joined the Illinois all-time lists in the 3000 meters and 5000 meters indoors and the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters outdoors. Hoerr, who finished fourth in the 10,000 meters at the Big Ten outdoor championships, missed qualifying for the NCAA meet by only seven seconds in the event.
Another highlight of 2005 for the Illini distance program was the recruitment of a very strong incoming freshmen class. The Illini add two state champions and a state runner-up to their line-up as well as several other potential standouts.
McRaven came to the University of Illinois after spending nine years at Kent State University where he was the head coach of the Golden Flashes' track and field and cross country programs for the past five years. As the head coach at Kent State, McRaven led the Golden Flashes to five Mid-American Conference championships, winning five MAC Coach of the Year honors. He was also honored as Central Collegiate Coach of the year, Mondo/USTCA Great Lakes Men's Coach of they Year and Mondo/USTCA Great Lakes Women's Coach of the Year each once.
Kent State's distance runners achieved unparalleled success under McRaven's guidance. McRaven sent three distance athletes to the NCAA national championships including 800 meter All-American Mike Inge, and 3000 meter steeplechasers Peter Weisz (2003 and 2004) and Stephanie Snyder (2001). He also guided the women's cross country team to the first-ever cross country conference title in school history. In his final year at Kent State the track and field program sent eleven athletes to the NCAA outdoor national championships.
Prior to joining Kent State's program, McRaven served as an assistant track coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Nebraska from 1994-96. During his tenure, the Huskers' men's and women's teams won three out of four possible indoor and outdoor conference championships. The 1996 Husker men finished second at the NCAA indoor national championships while the women earned a fourth-place trophy. While at Nebraska he worked with the team's distance runners and jumpers. He also was responsible for some of the nation's top recruiting classes during his two years in Lincoln.
Before joining the Cornhusker program, McRaven was an assistant track and cross country coach at the University of Alabama from 1991-94. The 1994 Alabama women's track team won the indoor and outdoor Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships and finished second at the 1994 NCAA indoor championships. The women's cross country team qualified for the NCAA championships in 1993.
A native of Arlington Heights, Ill., McRaven graduated from Wheeling High School. As a student-athlete at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., McRaven was part of three NCAA Division III national championship teams and earned Division III All-American honors in the 3000-meter steeplechase in 1990. At North Central, he was coached by former Illini All-American Al Carius. McRaven earned his bachelor's degree in English from North Central in 1990 and his master's degree in human performance studies from Alabama in 1993. He is a USATF Level II certified coach in the endurance events.
McRaven is married to the former Mary Guthrie of Palatine, Ill. They have a daughter, Kylie Nicole, 2. They reside in Savoy, Ill.