Wilson to be inducted into Track & Field Hall of Fame

The induction came after the Gophers had the best season in school history.

by Mark Remme

Gary Wilson has made a living combining a knack for teaching with a love for competition.

During the past 23 years, the Minnesota women’s cross country coach guided his Gophers to 10 NCAA tournament appearances and, in 2007, Big Ten and NCAA Midwest Regional titles. As coach of the women’s track and field team for 21 seasons up until last fall, he enjoyed similar results.

On Saturday, his accolades will be cemented in the USA Minnesota Track & Field Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place at Coffman Union.

“There are a lot of good people involved in track in this state, and probably a lot that aren’t in the Hall of Fame that should be before me,” Wilson said. Then, in his typical joking manner, he mused: “But I’m not giving it back.”

Wilson was named Big Ten women’s outdoor track and field Coach of the Year in his final season at the helm in 2006, a season that also featured Minnesota winning the Big Ten championship.

This year, he guided the women’s cross country team to its finest stretch in school history. The Gophers earned a Roy Griak Invitational championship, a Big Ten title and registered first place in the Midwest Regional.

Speaking of the Griak, Wilson is credited with co-founding the prestigious Midwestern cross country meet that hosts hundreds of high school and college athletes each year.

Not bad for making a career out of a passion he said he’d do free of charge.

“When you’ve been around as long as I have and you love your job, it’s extra to get those external rewards and awards,” he said. “I’d do this for nothing.”

Wilson, a native of Lyndonville, N.Y., competed in both cross country and track and field at Cortland State. He captained both teams his senior year and received his Bachelor’s (1968) and Master’s (1974) degrees at the school.

From there, Wilson began a coaching career that’s spanned four decades, ultimately reaching Minnesota and becoming one of the faces of Gophers running excellence.

Still, he’ll tell you that it had just as much to do with his supporting cast and athletes as his coaching style.

That’s the way the newly inducted hall of fame coach approaches the job that’s given him awards, spotlight and, now, a piece of immortality.

“Any of us who have had longevity any place, we’ve been surrounded by good kids and good people,” Wilson said. “That passion for people keeps us young and carries us to longevity and consistency.”