Mike Turk was named head coach of Illinois men's track and field on Wednesday.
June 15, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois Director of Athletics Ron Guenther has named Mike Turk head coach of Illinois men's track and field, announced Wednesday. Turk has spent six years on the Fighting Illini coaching staff, joining the squad as an assistant coach in 2006. After four years as an assistant, he was named the interim head coach and worked under that title for the 2010-11 seasons.
"I have had the opportunity to work with Mike Turk over the past six years, both as an assistant and interim head coach," Guenther said. "He has great passion for track and field, and the University of Illinois, and has done an exceptional job during the interim period with our program and student-athletes. Mike believes in Illinois and is committed to continuing the progress we saw last week when Illinois finished 12th at the recent NCAA Championships."
Turk spent two years as interim head coach while also coaching the jumps, throws and multi-events. He is well known as one of the top field event coaches in the country and is especially heralded for his development of athletes in the throwing events. Turk has accumulated over 25 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level, including 21 years at the NCAA Division I level. In his career, Turk has coached All-Americans in nine different events, including the long jump, triple jump, high jump, shot put, weight throw, hammer throw, discus, decathlon and 800m.
"I would like to thank Ron Guenther and our administration for this tremendous opportunity," Turk said. "I look forward to continuing the work from the past two seasons and returning the program to our tradition of Big Ten Championships and Top-25 national finishes. We want to build on our most recent finish and strive to do more to get to that next level. I would also like to thank coach Buford-Bailey for all of her help and support. I look forward to continuing a strong working relationship between the two programs."
Turk led the Illini to the program's best finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 23 years during the 2011 season. The Illini tied for 12th overall, marking the highest finish by an Illini squad since placing seventh in 1988. The Illini earned seven first-team All-America honors and one second-team award for their performances at nationals, including a third-place finish by the 4x100m relay, a runner-up showing by Andrew Riley in the 110m hurdles, a sixth-place finish by Stanley Azie in the 100m and an eighth-place effort in the 400m hurdles by Cody Wisslead. The Orange and Blue also boasted three Big Ten Champions, with Riley in the 110m hurdles, Wisslead in the 400m hurdles and the 4x100m relay.
During the 2011 indoor season, the Illini tied for 22nd at nationals, the highest indoor finish by an Illinois squad since 1998 (17th). Riley won his second career national title, as he raced to victory in the 60m hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Freshman Davis Fraker, who broke the school record in his first collegiate throw, was the first Illini ever to qualify for nationals in the weight throw and earned second-team All-American honors. Riley also competed a three-peat in the event by winning the 60m-hurdle title at the Big Ten Indoor Championships while Matt Bane captured the Big Ten title in the pole vault.
In his first year as interim head coach in 2010, Turk worked to change the culture of the program and made great strides from the indoor to the outdoor season, which was capped off by a national title in the 110m hurdles by Riley. Turk's squad qualified 16 athletes to the West Preliminary Round of Championship and advanced in three events to the NCAA Championships, with Riley in the 110m hurdles, Wisslead in the 400m hurdles and the 4x100m relay. At the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, the Illini turned in their best conference finish since 2006, as they placed sixth overall. Turk also coached junior Matt McHugh into the record books again, as the Exeter, N.H., native recorded school records during the indoor and outdoor seasons. McHugh smashed the school record in the weight throw before Fraker reset it the following season and broke his own school record in the hammer throw twice, tallying a personal-best mark of 202-10 (61.83m).
During the 2009 season, Turk coached a pair of athletes who altered Illinois records that had stood for 30 years. Junior Greg Shroka placed sixth in the high jump with a personal-best height of 7 feet, 1 1/2 inches (2.17m) at the NCAA Outdoor Championships to become the first Fighting Illini outdoor All-American in the event since Gail Olson took fifth in 1979. McHugh broke Bob Carper's school record of 187-4 set three decades ago when he marked 190-4 (58.02m) in the hammer throw at the Illinois Invitational. Fighting Illini field event athletes also achieved a number of milestones in 2008 under Turk, as Shroka became just the third athlete in Illinois history to leap over seven feet in the high jump, marking 7-0 1/4 at the Illinois Twilight. Shroka went on to earn All-Mideast Region honors, narrowly missing a trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships and scoring at both the Big Ten indoor and outdoor meets. In addition, multi-event athlete Andrew Zollner moved up to second on the Illini all-time list in the decathlon, with a personal-best point total of 6,776 points at the Big Ten Championships.
In 2007 under Turk, Nick Brown continued his success at the conference championships by finishing second in the long jump and fourth in the triple jump at the Big Ten Indoor Championships and third in both events at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Brown also competed in the long and triple jumps at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships. Turk helped guide Shroka to a successful rookie campaign, as he scored as a redshirt freshman at the Big Ten Championships and qualified for the regional championships. Zollner also came on strong, taking sixth in the decathlon and ninth in the heptathlon at the conference meets. In addition, Chad Gridley improved his personal best in the discus by over 20 feet.
Turk made an immediate impact with the Fighting Illini in his first year with the program in 2006. His athletes crashed the record books, with nine all-time top-10 performances in Illini history, with the season highlighted by the outstanding achievements of Brown. Under Turk's leadership, Brown was an NCAA Championships qualifier in both the long and triple jumps during the indoor season and in the triple jump during the outdoor season, earning All-America honors in the long jump indoor and the triple jump outdoor.
Prior to coming to Illinois, Turk spent six years coaching the men's track and field and cross country program at Western Michigan University. As head coach, he led the 2003 Broncos to a top-20 ranking in the NCAA Division I Team Power Ranking (USTCA). Turk was named the 2003 Central Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year in cross country and the 2004 Central Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year in outdoor track. In six years at Western Michigan, Turk coached two All-Americans, three school record holders, seven NCAA Qualifiers, a conference record holder and All-Mid American Conference performers in the long jump, triple jump, high jump, shot put, discus, hammer and decathlon.
Prior to joining Western Michigan's program, Turk was the assistant coach for both Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's men's and women's track and field programs. While at Marquette, Turk coached several All-Americans and NCAA Championships qualifiers, including the school's first-ever women's indoor NCAA qualifier and first-ever men's indoor NCAA All-American. Upon his departure from Marquette, Turk's athletes had set 27 school records. While at UW-Milwaukee, Turk coached numerous NAIA All-Americans including the 1989 NAIA outdoor 800m national champion.
Turk is a USATF Level III certified coach in the jumps and throws and as an instructor. He is a part of the USATF Coaches Education Level II staff, helping co-author the USATF Level II Throws curriculum and serving as the combined events chairperson. Turk is a popular clinician and has spoken at numerous clinics throughout the country. He is also a lead instructor at the prestigious Ironwood Throws Development Camp, organized the King of the Ring Throws Clinic and has authored several articles.
As a student-athlete at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., Turk received his bachelor's degree in Physical Education in 1985 and competed on the varsity track and field team. He was the 1984 CCIW Conference Champion in the shot put.
Turk and his wife, Lori, reside in Mahomet and have three children, daughters Hannah and Payton and a son, Sam.