CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Legendary track and field head coach Gary Wienke will always have an impact on Illini history, but on Saturday that legacy was cemented even further. On the Saturday, the outdoor track at Demerjian Park was dedicated to the Hall of Fame Coach.
Wieneke was in attendance to take a victory lap while dozens of current and former athletes showed up to honor him. The naming was a $1 million joint gift among several of his former athletes. Three-time Olympic qualifier and former Illini Craig Virgin says Wieneke’s lessons still resonate with all of them.
“We carry Coach Gary Wieneke with us for the rest of our lives,” says Virgin. “He left an impact and a mark on us and we still talk about how he did things. I know when I do itineraries, I do an itinerary for a meet just like he did, because he was organized, he was thorough, and he didn’t screw up. That’s the epitome of Coach Wieneke.”
Wieneke led the program to 13 big ten titles–and was the NCAA National Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year in 1987. He was inducted into the Illinois Hall of Fame in 2019.
Wieneke Track is all part of the new Demirjian Park–which is also home to the women’s soccer team in addition to the Track & Field teams. The grand opening was back in April, but they held an open house for the media on Friday.
Illinois hosted the big ten track and field championships here last week–athletic director Josh Whitman says they want to continue being a premiere destination for the sport.
“I think the reviews were incredibly high. Everybody came in and just had wonderful things to say about the building and the facilities,” says Whitman. “The track was fast, which was what we were excited about. I think the proximity to the soccer space and the baseball space provided some really nice warm-up areas. The schools were just really happy with the venue, we’re looking forward to welcoming them back.”