Wendel McRaven begins his sixth season as cross country and distance coach at the University of Illinois after spending nine years at Kent State University, including a five-year stint as head coach of the Golden Flashes' track and field and cross country programs.
Under McRaven's guidance, the 2009 cross country season wrapped up at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships where sophomore Colin Mickow earned All-Region accolades after placing 18th amongst the 174 total competitors. Mickow, who led the Orange and Blue at every race, pace a 10th-place finish and is the first Illini to earn the honor since Trent Hoerr in 2007.
On the track in 2010, McRaven's runners scored points in the 10,000m, 3,000m steeplechase and 800m, helping the Illini earn a sixth-place showing at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Colin Mickow turned in a solid third-place finish in the 10,000m while Engnell made up enough ground over the final lap to notch a seventh-place finish for the second straight year in the steeplechase. In the 800m, senior Brian Beaird made the finals for the first time and placed eighth overall.
During the 2008 cross country season, junior Jeremy Stevens and several freshmen led the way for the Illini with McRaven at the helm. Stevens won the season-opening Illini Challenge and was the Illini at four meets, including the Big Ten Championships. Then-freshmen Colin and Hunter Mickow, Jim Riddle and Nate Troester also stepped up to form a solid foundation on which McRaven has built.
Illinois also had a trio of Big Ten scorers during the 2009 track season, as Jacob Nachel placed sixth in the 5,000m during the indoor conference meet, Mike Murray took sixth in the 1,500m and Kyle Engnell finished seventh in the 3,000m steeplechase at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Illini distance runners had success on the track under McRaven in 2008, as Nachel finished third in the 5,000m and eighth in the 10,000m at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships and earned a trip to the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships by running a personal-best 5,000m time of 14:11.93 at the Mt. SAC Relays. Rob Pykosz broke out in the 3,000m steeplechase as well, qualifying for the NCAA Regional Championships with a personal-best time of 9:04.81 and also scoring at the Big Ten meet.
McRaven had his best cross country season to date in 2007, coaching senior Trent Hoerr to a 16th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Hoerr became the first Illini to garner All-America honors since Len Sitko in 1990. Under McRaven's guidance, Hoerr also won the NCAA Midwest Regional title and was named the Midwest Regional Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, garnering All-Region honors along with Nachel. In addition, Hoerr earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and broke the school's 8K record at Pre-Nationals with a time of 23:39. As a team, the Illini were sixth at both the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Midwest Regional Championships, the highest Illinois finishes at the meets since 1996 and 2004, respectively.
On the track in 2007, Hoerr was Big Ten runner-up in the 10,000m and competed at the NCAA Championships in the event, while Jason Bill (5,000m) and Jon Houseworth (3,000m steeplechase) competed at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships.
In 2006, McRaven took several small steps in laying the foundation for the future success of the Illini. In the fall, while redshirting his top three returning athletes, he guided walk-on Dan Stock from obscurity to individually qualifying for the NCAA Cross Country Championships. On the track, the Illini made several forays into the all-time top-10 lists, the highlight being the success of Hoerr, who joined the Illinois all-time lists in the 3,000m and 5,000m indoor and the 5,000m and 10,000m outdoor.
McRaven came to 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. McRaven led Kent State 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.
Kent State's distance runners achieved unparalleled success under McRaven's guidance. McRaven sent three distance athletes to the NCAA Championships including 800m All-American Mike Inge and 3,000 meter steeplechasers Peter Weisz (2003 and 2004) and Stephanie Snyder (2001). He also guided the women's cross country team to its first-ever conference title.
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 Huskers men finished second at the NCAA Indoor Championships while the women earned a fourth-place trophy. While at Nebraska, McRaven 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 Nebraska 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 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, and reside in Savoy, Ill.
Updated July 2010