John Simons and Laura Docherty led their respective teams.
Alma Mater: SUNY-Cortland Graduating Year: 1968 Phone: 612-624-2058 E-mail: email@example.com
In the cyclical world that is collegiate athletics, head coach Gary Wilson has been the constant of the Minnesota women's cross country program. In fall 2012, Wilson begins his 28th season with the Golden Gophers looking to add another season to an impressive list of the program's recent successes and continue building on his already-impressive coaching resume.
Wilson, the dean of the Big Ten Conference cross country coaches, guided the Gophers to a best-ever ninth-place finish in the 2005 NCAA Championships to usher in a streak of five consecutive top-12 NCAA finishes. The Gophers also climbed to the top of the victory stand winning the program's first Big Ten titles in 2007 and 2008.
An experienced squad with four seniors among the top seven led the charge as Minnesota captured its third consecutive NCAA Midwest Region title and tallied a 10th-place finish in the NCAA Championships in 2009. Senior Megan Duwell enjoyed one of the finest individual seasons on record, placing third at Big Tens, second at the regional meet and a Gopher-best seventh for All-America honors at the NCAA Championships. Minnesota has now celebrated a national awardwinner in each of the last five seasons. En route to the Midwest Region crown all seven Gophers earned all-region accord.
The Gophers proved they had the power and determination to repeat in 2008. Minnesota won the Griak Invitational and another dramatic Big Ten title before capturing the NCAA Midwest Region crown. The Gophers were ranked No. 4 in the nation, the highest ever, during the season, and went on to place 11th at the NCAA Championships. Megan Duwell earned All-America honors. Once again six Gophers were accorded All-Midwest Region honors and academically the momentum of this program continued with an impressive 3.54 cumulative team grade point average, the best of Gopher Athletics!
The 2007 season was one to remember. Jamie Cheever, who would later earn All-America honors, might have kicked it off with her record-setting back-to-back medalist performances in the first two meets of the season. A win at the prestigious Roy Griak Invitational added plenty of momentum. By the time the Big Ten Championships rolled around, the Gophers were firing on all cylinders and captured an emotional first running away with the program's first Big Ten title. The Gophers stormed into the NCAA Midwest Region Championships and captured that title as well, as six athletes ran to all-region honors. The Gophers celebrated a No. 5 national ranking, the highest in program history to that point, heading into the NCAA Championships before the season culminated with a 12th-place showing in the national meet.
Wilson was honored by his peers after both the 2007 and 2008 seasons with U.S. Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) NCAA Midwest Region Coach of the Year and Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year accolades.
The 2006 Gophers celebrated two All-Americans in Ladia Albertson-Junkans and Emily Brown, the first two-time honorees in over 20 years for the Minnesota program. En route to the NCAA Championships, Minnesota placed second at the NCAA Midwest Region Championships and garnered six all-region awards, the most in school history. The Gophers also earned a No. 6 national ranking during the season. Overall in Wilson's 25 years at Minnesota, the fiery, yet humorous coach has guided the Golden Gopher women's cross country team to NCAA Championships appearances 14 times (1989, 1991, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011). The harriers have been ranked in the top 25 of the national cross country poll in 19 of the past 23 seasons. Minnesota has hoisted the Big Ten team trophy in 2007 and 2008, but also has a history of upper-echelon finishes in 19 of the past 24 seasons.
During the spring, Wilson turns his attention to coaching the distance runners as an assistant coach for the women's track & field team. After 21 years as the head coach, Wilson stepped into an assistant role in 2007 and helped direct the Gophers to the first of three consecutive Big Ten indoor titles. The Gopher distance runners also excelled at the 2007 Drake Relays, winning all three distance relays (4x800m, 4.x1,600m and the distance medley relay), a feat only accomplished three times in the storied history of the event. The 4x800m relay is currently the four-time defending Drake Relays champion.
As head coach, he has guided the Golden Gophers to scoring performances at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 14 of his 21 seasons. Minnesota's highest national finish was a pair of 18th-place finishes in 1990 and 1991. In 2006, Wilson's final as the head coach, Minnesota finished 19th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and scored a record number of team points (14, mark has since been broken).
The 2006 track season was one of important firsts for the Golden Gopher program. Minnesota first 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 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 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 nearly 40 years, Wilson was honored with one of the most prestigious awards a collegiate track coach can receive; he was inducted into the Drake Relays Coaches Hall of Fame in 2005.
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 won the team title at the prestigious Griak event in 2000. Not all of Wilson's accomplishments with cross country and track & field occur on the 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 resides in Stillwater.