Turk named Illinois head coach
After two years as interim coach, Turk officially takes helm
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois Director of Athletics Ron Guenther has named Mike Turk head coach of Illinois men's track and field. Turk has spent six years on the Fighting Illini coaching staff, joining the squad as an assistant coach in 2006. After four years as an assistant, he was named the interim head coach and worked under that title for the 2010-11 seasons.
"I have had the opportunity to work with Mike Turk over the past six years, both as an assistant and interim head coach," Guenther said. "He has great passion for track and field, and the University of Illinois, and has done an exceptional job during the interim period with our program and student-athletes. Mike believes in Illinois and is committed to continuing the progress we saw last week when Illinois finished 12th at the recent NCAA Championships."
Turk spent two years as interim head coach while also coaching the jumps, throws and multi-events. He is well known as one of the top field event coaches in the country and is especially heralded for his development of athletes in the throwing events. Turk has accumulated over 25 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level, including 21 years at the NCAA Division I level. In his career, Turk has coached All-Americans in nine different events, including the long jump, triple jump, high jump, shot put, weight throw, hammer throw, discus, decathlon and 800m.
"I would like to thank Ron Guenther and our administration for this tremendous opportunity," Turk said. "I look forward to continuing the work from the past two seasons and returning the program to our tradition of Big Ten Championships and Top-25 national finishes. We want to build on our most recent finish and strive to do more to get to that next level. I would also like to thank coach Buford-Bailey for all of her help and support. I look forward to continuing a strong working relationship between the two programs."
Turk led the Illini to the program's best finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 23 years during the 2011 season. The Illini tied for 12th overall, marking the highest finish by an Illini squad since placing seventh in 1988. The Illini earned seven first-team All-America honors and one second-team award for their performances at nationals, including a third-place finish by the 4x100m relay, a runner-up showing by Andrew Riley in the 110m hurdles, a sixth-place finish by Stanley Azie in the 100m and an eighth-place effort in the 400m hurdles by Cody Wisslead. The Orange and Blue also boasted three Big Ten Champions, with Riley in the 110m hurdles, Wisslead in the 400m hurdles and the 4x100m relay.
During the 2011 indoor season, the Illini tied for 22nd at nationals, the highest indoor finish by an Illinois squad since 1998 (17th). Riley won his second career national title, as he raced to victory in the 60m hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Freshman Davis Fraker, who broke the school record in his first collegiate throw, was the first Illini ever to qualify for nationals in the weight throw and earned second-team All-American honors. Riley also competed a three-peat in the event by winning the 60m-hurdle title at the Big Ten Indoor Championships while Matt Bane captured the Big Ten title in the pole vault.
In his first year as interim head coach in 2010, Turk worked to change the culture of the program and made great strides from the indoor to the outdoor season, which was capped off by a national title in the 110m hurdles by Riley. Turk's squad qualified 16 athletes to the West Preliminary Round of Championship and advanced in three events to the NCAA Championships, with Riley in the 110m hurdles, Wisslead in the 400m hurdles and the 4x100m relay. At the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, the Illini turned in their best conference finish since 2006, as they placed sixth overall. Turk also coached junior Matt McHugh into the record books again, as the Exeter, N.H., native recorded school records during the indoor and outdoor seasons. McHugh smashed the school record in the weight throw before Fraker reset it the following season and broke his own school record in the hammer throw twice, tallying a personal-best mark of 202-10 (61.83m).