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Illinois to combine track and field and cross-country programs

Audrey+Blazek+crossing+the+finish+line+during+the+women%27s+cross-coutry+Illini+Challenge.+The+challenge+was+held+at+the+UI+Arboretum+on+Friday%2C+September+2%2C+2016.
Audrey Blazek crossing the finish line during the women's cross-coutry Illini Challenge. The challenge was held at the UI Arboretum on Friday, September 2, 2016.

Audrey Blazek crossing the finish line during the women's cross-coutry Illini Challenge. The challenge was held at the UI Arboretum on Friday, September 2, 2016.

Wenyuan Chen

Wenyuan Chen

Audrey Blazek crossing the finish line during the women's cross-coutry Illini Challenge. The challenge was held at the UI Arboretum on Friday, September 2, 2016.

Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman in a press release announced that the Illinois men’s and women’s cross-country and indoor and outdoor track teams will be combined under one coaching staff.

The decision will take effect following the completion of the 2017 outdoor track and field season.

Before the announcement, Illinois was one of four schools in the Big Ten to not combine its men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field teams. Twenty of the top 25 women’s teams and 23 of the 25 men’s teams that competed in the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships had combined programs.

Whitman selected current men’s track head coach Mike Turk to lead the program. This is Turk’s sixth year as head coach of the Illinois men’s track team. He has over 30 years of collegiate level coaching experience and led the Illini to four Big Ten second-place finishes over his career at Illinois.

“I am grateful to Mike Turk for agreeing to lead this combined effort,” Whitman said in the release. “He has done a tremendous job with our men’s program, while also coaching some of the world’s top women’s throwers. I have great confidence in Mike’s leadership and his commitment to building a consolidated program focused on quality people and championship competition.”

Joining Turk will be current assistant men’s track coach Adrian Wheatley, assistant women’s track and field coach Randy Gillon and women’s cross-country head coach Jake Stewart. Two additional positions will be filled.

The Illinois men’s track and field season begins Jan. 1 when it competes in the Border Battle, hosted by Iowa.

The women’s track and field season starts Dec. 3 with its Duals at the Armory.

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