The dean of Fighting Illini head coaches, Gary Wieneke celebrates his 35th year as Illinois' head cross country coach and 28th year at the helm of the men's track and field program this season.
Included on Wieneke's list of achievements are five indoor and six outdoor Big Ten Conference track and field titles, a cross country title, a runner-up finish at the 1988 NCAA National Indoor Track and Field Championships and a fourth-place finish at the 1995 NCAA indoor meet. The Illinois cross country team has finished in the Big Ten's upper division 26 times in Wieneke's 33 years.
Wieneke's inaugural squad finished in the Big Ten cellar, but only two years later the Fighting Illini captured second place. The Big Ten crown won by the 1984 team was Illinois' first since 1947 and UI's third-ever in cross country.
Recognized as one of the country's top middle distance coaches, Wieneke has guided 13 cross country runners to All-America status, including former world-record holder and two-time world and NCAA champion Craig Virgin.
"I am very proud to have been a member of the Illinois cross country team and am very proud of its success," Virgin said. "I will always be loyal to Coach Wieneke for giving me tremendous support while I was at the University of Illinois. He is a very sincere, hard-working person. Technically, he's an excellent coach. He knows a lot about training and has meshed that with excellent administrative skills. He has built a very competent track and field staff to complement his abilities as a distance coach."
Wieneke was coach of the United States Junior National Team in 1989 and has served as head coach for the Midwest region team at the United States Olympic Committee National Sports Festival and for the United States team at the 1979 World Cup of Track and Field. He has also been chairman of the USOC middle distance events.
He is a nine-time NCAA District IV Coach of the Year and was named NCAA National Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year in 1987. He is a three-time Big Ten Outdoor Track Coach of the Year, last winning the honor in 1994.
In 1992, Wieneke was inducted into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame. He was also a 1992 Drake Relays Hall of Fame inductee, joining former UI coaches Harry Gill and Leo Johnson.
Wieneke came to Illinois from Guilford High School in Rockford, where he was head track and field coach for three seasons. Prior to that, he coached at Locust Junior High (Wilmette) and at New Trier High School (Winnetka).
He began his coaching career at Bowling Green State University where he served as a graduate assistant while working toward his master's degree. Following his stint at BGSU, Wieneke returned to his home state to pursue teaching and coaching on a full-time basis.
Wieneke was a four-year letterwinner in both track and cross country at Augustana (Ill.) College, where he set the school record in the 880-yard run in addition to sharing two relay records. He received a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1962.
Prior to enrolling at Augustana, Wieneke served three years in the U.S. Army. He and his wife, Peggy, reside in Champaign.
WIENEKE'S CAREER AT A GLANCE
NCAA National Coach of the Year 1987
District IV Coach of the Year 1975, 1977, 1981, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1997
Big Ten Outdoor Coach of the Year 1988, 1989 and 1994
USOC Middle Distance Chairman 1980
USA Midwest Regional Head Coach 1979
USA World Cup Head Coach 1979
USA Junior National Team Coach 1989
Big 10 Cross Country Champions 1984
Big 10 Outdoor Track and Field 1975, 1977, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1994
Big 10 Indoor Track and Field 1977, 1981, 1987, 1988 and 1989
HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS Illinois Track and Cross Country Hall of Fame 1992
Drake Relays Hall of Fame 1991
East Moline High School Hall of Fame 1993