Cross country coach retires after 21 years

Jim Knoedel

Jim Knoedel: “I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished.” (Photo: Steve Woltmann)

After leading the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field programs for more than two decades, head coach Jim Knoedel retired from his position Dec. 31. Assistant coach Gabe Rivera is interim head coach as the Flames begin their 2017 track and field seasons.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished in my 21 years as a coach but have most enjoyed all the athletes I’ve had the good fortune to work with throughout that time,” Knoedel said. “I hope I’ve had a positive influence on every life and each of them finds their own way to give to others what I tried to give to them.”

Since his arrival in 1996, Knoedel has put a stamp on the Flames that will forever be engrained. He helped the teams move into the top tier ranks in the Horizon League. He was also instrumental in constructing the track and field programs that began in 2001, showcasing UIC as a conference contender.

“I’ve always told the athletes that I never ran a race, jumped a bar, or threw an implement in my time at UIC,” he said. “They have. To watch any of them achieve a dream, such as a league title, is what my job was all about.”

“Coach Knoedel convinced me to bring track and field back to UIC and he has been the staple to grow that program,” said athletic director Jim Schmidt. “His leadership and mentorship of so many young people will be forever his legacy.

“We thank him for his total dedication and passion over his many years of service at UIC.”

Knoedel coached several student-athletes who brought home a collection of Horizon League accolades, including Cross Country Athlete of the Year (2), Cross Country Freshman of the Year (4), Outstanding Running Performer (2), Outstanding Field Performer (2), Running Newcomer of the Year (1), Field Newcomer of the Year (2) and All-League (50).

Under Knoedel’s leadership, the Flames collected 83 individual league titles, leading UIC to finish in the upper half of the final conference standings 38 times.

“My first conference champion at UIC was Vicki Sherbrook in the 5K and I remember to this day having to convince track officials that she had actually won,” he said. “It was before we officially had a track team. Winning performances by Tess Ehrhardt, Matt Zaluckyj, Kellie Schuh, Mike Savegnago, Idara Essien, Barry Somerville, Rebecca Zaiter and Andy Wall are ones that still give me goose bumps. I could tell great stories about the courage and determination of each one of these athletes and what they accomplished. Their names will forever be etched in the Horizon League results and permanently in my heart.”

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