Robert Gary, who will enter his first season as head coach of the Ohio State track and field team in 2007, begins his second decade as head coach of the Buckeye cross country teams. Gary recently ended a decorated running career after the 2005 season. In 2004, he became the fifth former Buckeye to gain a bid to two separate U.S. Olympic teams and competed in his final career event at the 2005 USA Cross Country Nationals.
Gary, also a participant at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, placed third in the men's steeplechase at the 2004 Olympic Trials with a career-best 8:19.46. His third-place finish gained an automatic bid on the U.S. team headed to Athens, Greece for the 2004 Olympic Games.
Gary also earned honors as a cross country athlete, winning the 2004 Track and Field News Cross Country Runner of the Year in December. Gary qualified for the U.S. team for the second straight season in both the 4- and 12-kilometer events. He finished as the top American at the 2004 World Championships in the 4k. Gary's 2004 qualification to the world championships in two events marked the first time a U.S. runner made both teams in consecutive years.
Along with his numerous accolades in cross country and track, Gary has established himself as an elite coach in the nation in just nine seasons.
In his ninth season as OSU cross country head coach, Gary led the Buckeyes to perhaps the finest season in program history. Named 2005 Great Lakes Region Cross Country Coach of the Year, Gary led the men's cross country squad to a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Championships, third place in the Great Lakes meet and a No. 11 standing at the 2005 NCAA Championships. Individually, Brian Olinger was named 2005 Great Lakes Runner of the Year and earned his second-consecutive All-America award.
The 2004 track and field season could possibly serve as Gary's best in his time at Ohio State as a pair of Buckeyes scored Top 4 finishes in their respective events at the NCAA championships. Rob Myers took fourth in the men's 1,500-meter run before placing third at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in a career-best time of 3:38.93. In addition, Aaron Fisher clocked a fourth-place time in the men's steeplechase at the NCAA championships, ahead of Olinger, who turned in a Top 20 performance.
In 2005, Fisher again claimed All-America honors in the steeple, while Olinger nabbed his first All-American award in the indoor 5,000m before redshirting the outdoor campaign. As a redshirt, Olinger posted some of his top times in the steeple in 2005, highlighted by a fourth-place finish and career-best 8:28.44 at the USA nationals in June and an 8:19.56 at European meet in July.
In 2006, Gary mentored Olinger to his second-consecutive All-American season on the track, upping Gary's total to 13 All-America awards in men's distance at Ohio State. Olinger also claimed the Big Ten 10,000-meter title, moving Gary's total to 16 conference distance champions.
Despite redshirting three of its top runners from the 2003 season, the OSU men's cross country team once again proved to be one of the elite teams in the country, qualifying for the 2004 NCAA Championships for the fourth time in five years. In addition, the men and women placed first and second, respectively, at the 2004 All-Ohio Championships in Delaware, Ohio.
Individually, Olinger turned in one of the best performances in Ohio State history, capping his year with All-America honors after a 21st-place finish at the NCAA championships.
At the 2004 Big Ten Championships, Olinger was just as impressive, capturing first team all-league with a seventh-place finish in a time of 24:21.0.
In the fall of 2003, the men's cross country team qualified for the NCAA championships for the third time in four years, while posting a fourth-place finish at the 2003 Big Ten Championships. Ohio State scored its highest regional finish (third) in school history in 2003 and reached as high as No. 7 in the country.
The Buckeyes also posted strong performances at the 2003 Great American Cross Country Festival and at the 2003 Pre-National Championships, finishing third in both races.
As a result, Gary was named Ohio Cross Country Coach of the Year for the third-consecutive season. Gary has claimed that honor six times during his Ohio State tenure.
The success of the cross country team has carried over to the track as Gary's squads are consistently among the strongest in the Big Ten. The 2003 season was no different as Gary coached Myers to one of his most successful seasons of his career as he participated in the 2003 NCAA Championships in the mile, clocking a 3:58, while also setting a program mark in the 3,000-meter run.
During the 2003 outdoor campaign, the Buckeye distance squad once again proved to be tough as Derrick Butler captured first in the 10,000-meter run at the Big Ten championships, while Fisher captured first in the 5,000-meter run. Fisher and Butler combined for a second and third place finish in Gary's specialty - the 3,000-meter steeplechase - to help the Buckeyes outscore the rest of the conference in the distance events.
As distance coach for the Buckeyes, Gary has coached a conference winner in every distance event and has guided eight Buckeyes who have set Ohio State program distance records.
Gary's student-athletes carry their success into the classroom as 10 members from the 2002 cross country team earned Ohio State Scholar-Athlete honors. In 2004, nine Buckeyes gained league academic merit as well. In 2005, seven Buckeyes earned the honor and that number was upped to 11 in 2006. Along with receiving much recognition at the last three Ohio State Scholar-Athlete Banquets, the men and women also earned Academic All-American team with distinction honors with a team grade-point average that exceeded 3.25 five consecutive seasons.
As an athlete in 2003, Gary qualified for his sixth United States World Cross Country team by winning the 2003 U.S. 4-kilometer Cross Country Championship in Houston, Texas. Also in 2003, Gary claimed a third-place standing in the steeplechase at the USATF championships with a time of 8:24.82. He ended the year by representing the U.S. at the 2003 Outdoor World Championship en route to earning a No. 3 ranking by Track and Field News.
In the 2002 outdoor campaign, Gary ran the fourth fastest time by an American in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. As a result of his performance, Gary was ranked among the Top 8 in the U.S. for the seventh-straight year.
Gary also represented the United States in Atlanta as a member of the 1996 Olympic team in the steeplechase. In the Olympic Trials, he captured second behind fellow Buckeye alum and training partner Mark Croghan. Gary received a degree in English education from OSU in the fall of 1996. He is a graduate of Evanston Township High School (Chicago, Ill.) where he was a state champion in the two-mile and an All-Midwest selection in soccer.
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