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After 22 seasons as head coach of the Illinois women's track and field team, Gary Winckler continues to build his reputation as one of the nation's premier developers of student-athletes both on and off the track. While at Illinois, Winckler's teams have won 11 Big Ten Championships as he has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year 11 times and National Coach of the Year once. Under Winckler's leadership, Illini athletes have won 265 individual Big Ten titles and 46 have earned All-America recognition 186 times.
As a coach, Winckler is nationally recognized for his ability to consistently produce extraordinary athletes. Over his career at both Illinois and Florida State, Winckler has turned out over 300 All-Americans, and has coached athletes to eight collegiate record-breaking performances, including Perdita Felicien's 60m hurdles time of 7.90 seconds set in 2002.
In addition, Winckler has coached 13 different athletes who have reached the Olympic Games in the sprints, hurdles or relays and have won gold, silver and bronze medals. Dating back to 1992, athletes coached by Winckler have appeared in every World Championships and Olympic Games. Included in that group are former Illinois greats Felicien, Yvonne Harrison, Susanna Kallur and current Illini associate head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey.
While training some of the best individual athletes in the nation, Winckler also has been able to mold his collegiate performers into extremely competitive teams that have succeeded on the national level. Last season marked the 21st year under Winckler that Illinois scored at the national meet.
The 2007 season was highlighted by the Fighting Illini capturing the Big Ten Outdoor Championship, earning the title of co-champions with Michigan behind an incredible run on the last day of competition. Illinois stood in seventh place after day two of the championships, but scored 106 points on the final day to earn the title. Senior Yvonne Mensah led the way, capturing four Big Ten titles (100m, 200m, triple jump, 4x100m relay and scoring an astonishing 46 points. Winckler also continued his tradition of producing All-Americans, with Mensah earning the accolade in the long jump in the indoor season and senior Carlene Robinson in the 400m hurdles in the outdoor season. For the Illini's season-long success, Winckler was named Big Ten Outdoor Coach of the Year and the 2007 USTFCCCA Midwest Region Outdoor Coach of the Year.
Winckler also received the Varsity "I" Association Merit Award in 2007, given to an Illinois coach or administrator whose hard work leaves an indelible print on student-athletes.
In 2006, the Fighting Illini had one All-American, four NCAA Championships participants and eight regional qualifiers. Cassie Hunt led the way at the 2006 Championships, placing second in the steeplechase to earn All-American accolades for the second-straight year. Camile Robinson placed ninth overall in the 400m hurdles, and Jamie Turilli finished 15th in the 5,000m after setting a school record of 16:13.53 in the prelims.
The Fighting Illini scored 135 points in 2005 to win the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, boasting three first-place finishes. Sophomore sensation Cassie Hunt took first in the 5,000m and the 3,000m steeplechase, and freshmen Tiara Armstrong and LaNeisha Waller, along with sophomore Yvonne Mensah and senior Shanna Pickett, won the program's second consecutive 4x400m relay title.
Some of Winckler's best Illinois teams came in 1995 and 1996, when the Illini achieved back-to-back fourth-place finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and a sixth-place national indoor finish in 1996. Prior to coming to Illinois, Winckler directed Florida State to the outdoor national title in 1984 and the indoor crown in 1985.
While Winckler's athletes' results on the track have been outstanding, their academic success is what truly stands out. Winckler stresses to his student-athletes that academics is the top priority when it comes to life at the University of Illinois. His goal of educating champions refers to demanding hard work and success in the classroom as well as in the athletic arena.
Since 1985, Winckler has graduated 97 percent of his student athletes with 74 of them receiving 156 total Academic All-Big Ten awards and two receiving Academic All-America recognition (Felicien and Hunt).
Four Illini under Winckler have earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor, including Yvonne Mensah in 2007, which symbolizes the conference's highest award given to the student-athlete who has best demonstrated proficiency in scholarship and academics.
Following their Illini collegiate careers, Winckler continues to have a hand in his athletes' successes. In the summer of 2003, Winckler coached Felicien to a gold medal in the 100m hurdles at the World Championships, the first-ever gold medal for an Illini athlete at the World Championships. In the spring of 2004, Felicien set a new personal best and established a new Canadian national mark of 12.46 with her performance at the Prefontaine Classic. Felicien continues to see success on the track, recently taking home the silver medal in the 100m hurdles at both the 2007 World Championships and the 2007 Pan American Games.
Felicien, a two-time Olympian, capped her brilliant collegiate career by winning her second NCAA 100m hurdles crown in 2003. She left Illinois as the NCAA record holder in the 60m hurdles, a three-time NCAA champion and a 10-time All-American.
Celena Mondie-Milner, who won 19 Big Ten crowns under Winckler, earned a gold medal at the 1995 World Championships as part of the 4x100-meter relay. While still training with Winckler, Mondie-Milner also was a member of the 1997 United States World Championship team.
A tribute to his tremendous organizational skills and proven training techniques, Winckler received one of track and field's most prestigious roles in June of 1997 when he was named head coach of the United States World Championship Team. The squad competed at the Outdoor Track and Field World Championships, held in Athens, Greece, in August 1997. Under Winckler's tutelage, the USA won the gold medal in the 4x100 relay and set an American record in the event. Winckler also served as the United States head women's track and field coach at the 1989 World Indoor Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
In addition, Winckler has served as director of the USA Track and Field National Coaching Education Program, as national hurdles coordinator for the USATF Olympic Development Committee and as coordinator of the USATF's Coaching Education sprints and hurdles curriculum committee. He is a Level II and Level III coaching instructor for the International Amateur Athletic Federation and has instructed at various clinics throughout the United States.
Winckler came to Illinois from Florida State University, where he was head women's track and field coach from 1982-85. Winckler initially began his stint at FSU in 1980 as an assistant coach, where he went on to produce 130 All-America selections. After FSU won the 1984 outdoor and 1985 indoor NCAA titles, Winckler was named NCAA Coach of the Year in consecutive years. In addition to those team titles, his squads also placed second in the 1983 and 1985 NCAA Outdoor Championships and the 1981 NCAA Indoor Championships.
Prior to his time at Florida State, Winckler was an assistant coach at Oregon State and Seattle Pacific. He received his B.S. from Seattle Pacific in 1974 and earned his M.S. in numerical analysis from Oregon State in 1980.