Gary Wieneke served as the University of Illinois head men’s cross country coach for 36 years and as head track & field coach for 29 years. The Fighting Illini won 12 Big Ten Conference championships under Wieneke’s guidance, including the 1984 Big Ten cross country championship – the first Illini conference championship since 1947. In 1988, the Illini finished as runners-up at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Wieneke served three years in the U.S. Army before becoming a four-year letterwinner in both track and cross country at Augustana (IL) 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.
Wieneke 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.
He coached at three Illinois schools (Locust Junior High, New Trier High School, and Guilford High School) before accepting a position as head men’s cross country and assistant men’s track & field coach at Illinois.
At Illinois, Wieneke coached such individual standouts as three-time Olympian Craig Virgin, two-time Olympian Mike Durkin, and three-time Olympian Marko Koers. He guided 16 different runners to All-America honors, and many of those earned multiple awards. Since 1971, 20 different Illini middle and long distance runners have won 53 Big Ten titles.
He is a nine-time NCAA District IV Coach of the Year and was named NCAA National Indoor Track & field Coach of the Year in 1987. Wieneke is also a three-time Big Ten Outdoor Track Coach of the Year, and he was awarded with an honorary Varsity “I” athletic letter for his accomplishments as the Illini coach.
Nationally known and respected, Wieneke was coach of the U.S. Junior National Team in 1989 and has served as chairman of the middle distance events for the U.S. Olympic Committee, head coach for the Midwest regional team at the USOC National Sports Festival, and as coach for the U.S. team at the 1979 World Cup of Track & field.
Wieneke has been recognized for his achievements in his induction into the Drake Relays, Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association, and East Moline High School Halls of Fame.