Gary Wilson is in his eighth season in the capacity of an assistant charged with the distance crew and his 28th season overall at Minnesota.
"Gary's title may have changed but he has continued to have the same positive impact on the program," said head coach Matt Bingle. "Gary has a proven history of doing a great job and has such a heart-felt commitment to this team and the University of Minnesota."
In the years since handing over the reigns, Wilson has had the opportunity to coach several of the best track athletes in Gopher history, namely All-Americans Heather Dorniden, Gabriele Anderson, and Megan Duwell.
Wilson passed the head coaching baton to Bingle after 21 seasons, 14 of which culminated in Golden Gopher scoring performances at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Minnesota's highest outdoor national finish was a pair of 18th-place finishes in 1990 and 1991. Last season, Minnesota finished 19th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, however scored a record number of team points (14). The Gophers posted a best-ever 12th-place showing at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championships.
Wilson completed his final season as head track coach in 2006 in style; with a track season loaded with important firsts for the Golden Gopher program. Minnesota celebrated its first national champion, when freshman Heather Dorniden won the 800 meters at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The outdoor season was an impressive display of one success after another. The Gophers rolled to their first Big Ten title with five athletes capturing conference titles along the way. Wilson was honored as the Big Ten Outdoor Coach of the Year. After the Gophers' 19th-place showing at the NCAA meet and a third-place finish at the Midwest Region Championships, Wilson was further honored by his peers with the Midwest Region and Midwest District Coach of the Year awards.
Perhaps the most fitting way for Wilson to complete the 2005-06 season was by the University of Minnesota honoring him with the President's Award for Outstanding Service.
The Gophers experienced a spirited climb up the Big Ten track & field standings during the 2005 season. Minnesota posted a third-place showing at the 2005 Big Ten Indoor Championships, marking the highest finish at the indoor meet in school history. The Gophers then added a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Outdoor Track Championships. The Gophers claimed both top rookie awards in 2005, with Liz Roehrig named the Big Ten Indoor Freshman of the Year and Liz Podominick the Big Ten Outdoor Freshman of the Year.
Wilson has remained the head coach of the Golden Gopher women's cross country team, a squad that he has guided to NCAA Championships appearances 13 times (1989, 1991, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010). From 2005-09, the Gophers enjoyed a string of top-12 finishes at the NCAA Championships.
In 2005, Minnesota posted a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships, the highest in school history, and crowned two runners (Ladia Albertson-Junkans and Emily Brown) with All-America honors. The 2006 campaign was also a successful one as Minnesota climbed to as high as No. 6 in the national poll, then went on to an 11th-place showing at the NCAA meet. Albertson-Junkans and Brown repeated as All-Americans.
The 2007 cross country season was highlighted by Minnesota capturing its first titles at the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Midwest Region Championships. The Gophers finished 12th at the NCAA meet, led by All-American Jamie Cheever. Wilson was honored as the Big Ten and NCAA Midwest Region Coach of the Year. The Gophers repeated as Big Ten and Midwest Region champions in 2008. Led by All-American Megan Duwell, Minnesota tied for 11th at the NCAA Championships.
The 2009 Gophers continued the successful run behind Duwell. Duwell posted a seventh-place finish at the NCAA meet, the highest individual showing in Gopher history. Minnesota went on to place 10th, extending their active streak of consecutive top-12 NCAA finishes to five, an national accomplishment that only Illinois could match at the time. Minnesota, behind All-American Stephanie Price, placed 27th in 2010.
The harriers have been ranked in the top 25 of the national cross country poll in 20 of the past 24 seasons. Overall, Minnesota has finished in the upper half of the conference in 20 of the past 24 seasons.
The 1989 Minnesota squad was Wilson's first to earn its way to the NCAA Cross Country Championships, marking the first appearance for the Gophers since 1983. Wilson's achievements were recognized by his fellow coaches when he was named 1989 Region IV Coach of the Year after guiding the Gophers to a second-place finish at the regional championship. Despite losing three of their top runners from that squad, the 1990 Gophers came within an eyelash of qualifying again for the NCAA meet. In 1991, Wilson led the Gophers back to the national championships, and their 17th-place finish was the team's highest since 1983, a finish his team duplicated 1999. Another program highlight was five consecutive NCAA Championships appearances from 1997 to 2001.
In a coaching career that spans over 40 years, Wilson was honored with one of the most prestigious awards a collegiate track coach can receive when in April of 2005, he was inducted into the Drake Relays Coaches Hall of Fame.
"This honor was completely overwhelming to me," said Wilson. "In my 37 years of coaching I have never been so humbled by an award."
Another of Wilson's shining accomplishments at Minnesota was his part in establishing the annual Roy Griak Invitational, the Gophers' annual cross country event that has grown into one of the largest single-day cross country meets in the nation. Minnesota has won the team title at the prestigious Griak event in 2000 and 2007.
Wilson was also inducted into the USA Track and Field Minnesota Hall of Fame in December of 2007.
Not all of Wilson's accomplishments with cross country and track & field occur on the track or race course. Wilson served as the president of the Women's Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association in 1994 and 1995. He served as the Region IV representative on the national committee from 1987-91.
Other accomplishments in his distinguished career include coaching the U.S. junior team that participated at the 1993 World Cross Country Championships in Amorebieta, Spain, and the World Junior Track and Field Championships in Sydney, Australia, in August, 1996.
Wilson was lured to Minnesota after building a Division III powerhouse at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse (1977-85), where he coached the women's team to three consecutive national track and field championships and one national cross country title. UWL finished in the top five at cross country nationals in six of Wilson's eight years with the program.
Wilson also coached the Wisconsin-LaCrosse men's track and field team for seven years, guiding both the men's and women's teams in 1982 and 1983. In all, his teams at UWL won 21 conference titles. Wilson was inducted in the UWL Hall of Fame in 1997.
Wilson is considered to be one of the foremost authorities in the United States on distance training. Not only has he produced many national-class runners, he is also a teacher of coaches. Wilson served as the national curriculum coordinator for endurance events in the USATF Coaching Education Program from 1984-93. He also teaches a number of schools and clinics at the Olympic Training Center every year and is often sought after to speak at camps and clinics throughout the U.S. and Caribbean.
A native of Lyndonville, N.Y., Wilson competed in cross country and track and field while an undergraduate at Cortland State, N.Y., serving as a captain for all three teams as a senior.
Gary and his wife, Suzy, have three grown children: Ben, Laura and Adam. The Wilson family home is in Stillwater.