Tuesday, February 3, 2015

UIS names coach for new cross country, track programs

Mike De Witt has lots of experience in starting running programs from scratch or rebuilding them. It makes the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native a perfect fit to be the first University of Illinois Springfield cross country and track and field coach.

De Witt’s hire was announced Monday.

He has coached running since the 1970s, including well over 30 years at the college level. He spent 29 years at his alma mater, Wisconsin-Parkside. He started programs at NAIA Ave Maria University in Florida and took over at NCAA Division II Belmont Abbey in North Carolina soon after it restarted its track and field program.

He turned Wisconsin-Parkside men’s cross country into a respectable program. “The women’s team was always good, but I rebuilt the men’s cross country program at Wisconsin-Parkside,” De Witt said. “They were down to just a few guys. I took them from beating one team at the Great Lakes Valley Conference meet the first year to the third year finishing fifth or sixth.”

De Witt currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and works in the suburb of Bessemer.

De Witt was the first All-American at Wisconsin-Parkside in track. He has competed in the Olympic Trials five times in the 50 kilometer Race Walk and was on Team USA seven times, including the 1989 World Cup of Race Walking.

His first day at UIS is March 9. His salary is $42,000. UIS men’s and women’s cross country teams will take part in GLVC competition in the fall. The women’s track team will compete on a limited basis in distance events in spring 2016. The men’s track team will begin competition in distance events in spring 2017. “I will set up a meeting with kids on campus interested in running,” De Witt said. “I was a runner on the first Wisconsin-Parkside team, so I understand.”

This story was published online in The State Journal-Register on February 2, 2015.

Read the entire article online.