The 2021 Big Ten track championships will be run on the Gary R. Wieneke Track at the University of Illinois, named for a distinguished alumnus of Augustana College.
Gary Wieneke '62 served as Illinois head coach for 28 years in track and field and 36 years in cross country. He led Illinois to 13 Big Ten Championships (12 in track and field, one in cross country) and four NCAA Indoor Championship trophies during his tenure from 1967 to 2003.
The Gary R. Wieneke Track is part of the Demirjian Park project. Demolition of the current track will start this summer, and the team will be without an outdoor home in 2020. The new track will be done in time to host the 2021 Big Ten Championships.
A four-year letter winner at Augustana College in track and field and cross-country, Wieneke set the Augustana record in the 880-yard run and was part of two relay records. After his graduate assistantship at Bowling Green, he coached at three Illinois high schools before accepting Bob Wright's invitation to become the UI's assistant coach.
Wieneke's best run at Illinois came from 1985-95 when the Illini placed in the top three 20 times in 22 Big Ten meets. As a result of putting Illinois track in the national spotlight, Wieneke played a major role in the UI twice hosting the outdoor NCAA Championships meet in 1977 and 1979.
Known as the "Einstein of the 800 meters," Wieneke made the Illini a Big Ten and national power in the middle distances, most noticeably in the half-mile and mile. He coached 11 different half-milers to 27 Big Ten titles.
Before taking over as head coach of the Illinois track and field and cross country programs, Wieneke spent seven seasons leading the Illinois cross country program. Wieneke guided four of his athletes to the Olympics: Craig Virgin (1976, 1980, 1984), Marko Koers (1992, 1996, 2000), Mike Durkin (1976, 1980) and Bobby True (2000).
Retiring at the end of the 2002-03 season, Wieneke was a nine-time NCAA District IV Coach of the Year, was named the NCAA National Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year in 1987 and garnered three Big Ten Outdoor Coach of the Year honors.