Ron Garner Named Head Coach of Illinois Women's Track and Field
July 19, 2013
Champaign, Ill. -- University of Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas has announced the hiring of Ron Garner as the Fighting Illini's women's track and field head coach. Garner returns to Illinois with over 25 years of collegiate experience, including serving as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Illini women's track and field team from 1991-1998. Garner will be in Champaign Tuesday and will be made available for interviews at that time.
"It's terrific to be able to bring back a coach who was part of so much success here at Illinois," Thomas said. "Ron played a huge role in six Big Ten championships won by our teams and individuals during his first tenure here. He has a fantastic reputation as a recruiter and in developing championship-level student-athletes, and has a great love for the University of Illinois. I know his wife, Disa, one of our all-time great volleyball players, is also excited to return to her alma mater."
"It's a very humbling experience to be able to return to a place I have been before," Garner said. "My experience was so positive the first time and truly developed me as a professional. Illinois is a special place. It's a great academic institution and the quality of the student athletes is second to none. I'm very proud of what (former head coach) Tonja (Buford-Bailey) has done with the program. She is an exceptional coach and role model, and to be able to build on her foundation of the program is very important to me. I would like to emphasize my gratitude to Mike Thomas and (Senior Associate Athletics Director) Paul Kowalczyk for extending this opportunity, and having the confidence that I can be the person to lead the program to the next level of success."
Garner has spent the past two seasons at the University of South Carolina as an assistant coach for the men's and women's track and field teams, specializing in sprints and relay events. He coached 20 All-Americans in 12 events during his time with the Gamecocks. In his first season at South Carolina, Garner guided sprinter Erika Rucker to become the 2012 SEC Indoor Freshman Runner of the Year after she finished the season as the third-fastest freshman in the nation.
Garner spent one season coaching the James Madison University track and field teams in 2005, where he specialized in the throwing events. With his guidance, two school records were broken and every athlete that he coached established at least one new personal record. Garner also specialized in the throwing events at the University of Virginia from 2002-2004, where he coached two 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifiers, one 2004 NCAA All-American and three ACC champions.
As the head coach of the Clemson women's track and field and cross country programs, Garner led the track and field team to the 1999 ACC outdoor title, the first in eight years. That year, the team finished at No. 4 in the final USTFCCCA National Dual Meet Team Power Rankings. For his success, Garner was named the 1999 ACC Outdoor Track and Field Coach of the Year.
In his first stint at Illinois, Garner was responsible for coaching the horizontal jumps and throwing events, and also assisted with the sprints, hurdles and relays. Garner helped produce six Big Ten team titles in six years, as well as consecutive fourth-place finishes at the NCAA Championships in 1995 and 1996. He contributed to the development of Olympic bronze medalist Tonja Buford-Bailey and, as the recruiting coordinator, brought in three top-three nationally ranked recruiting classes.
Prior to his stint in Champaign, Garner was an assistant coach at Clemson University from 1986-1991, where he assisted in the development of Olympic gold medalist Kim Graham. He established and coached the first women's track and field team in program history, and won the program's first ACC title in 1991. Garner began his career at Christopher Newport University in 1983.
A 1982 graduate of Christopher Newport University with a bachelor's degree in leisure studies and physical education, Garner also earned a master's degree in education from Clemson. He founded the Inside Track Racing Team, where he coached track and field athletes age 10-18. Garner coached the three fastest 4x100m relays ever run by a 17-18-year-old age-group club team, and produced 19 junior All-Americans. He is married to the former Disa Johnson, who played volleyball at Illinois from 1984-87, broke the school record for assists and was a CoSIDA Academic All-American. She also served as an assistant coach for the Illini from 1990-93.
THE GARNER FILEEducation: Christopher Newport University, B.A., leisure studies and physical education, 1982
Clemson University, master's degree in education, 1991
Family: Wife: Disa; Children: Kayin, Tori
Previous Coaching Experience