Men's and Women's Cross Country/Track & Field Coach
(Updated 11/25/08) Head Coach Mike Hillyard is in his 12th season at the helm of the USI men's and women's cross country/track and field programs. He took the reigns of the women's program in 1997 and the men's program in 1998.
A nine-time GLVC Coach of the Year in men's and women's cross country, Hillyard directed the men's cross country program to its fourth straight GLVC championship in 2008. He also led the women's squad to its first league title in five years this past fall.
In 2008, Hillyard led his revamped men's squad to its fifth GLVC title in six years and to the NCAA II Championships for the fourth consecutive season. USI had a record eight All-GLVC performers despite losing his top four competitors from the 2007 squad.
Hillyard led the 2007 men's squad to an eighth-place finish at the NCAA II Championships, marking the first top-10 finish for USI since 1997 and its fifth top-10 finish in the history of the program.
A year earlier, Hillyard's squad overcame significant injuries to capture its second straight conference championship.
In 2005, he directed the Eagles to one of the most dominating performances in GLVC history as the team placed six runners in the top 10 and finished with 26 points to better the combined score of the entire GLVC field.
The 2003 conference title marked the first time since 1991 that the Eagles' men's program had won the GLVC Championship and the first time since 1989 that the team had won the conference title outright.
Under Hillyard, the women's squad has captured four GLVC titles since 1997. USI's titles in 2003 and 2008 marked just the third and fourth times in GLVC history that the same institution had won both men's and women's conference championships in the same season.
Hillyard also directed the women's program to the 1999 Great Lakes Regional Championship and to top-10 national finishes in 1998 and 1999.
The women have qualified for seven NCAA II Championship appearances under Hillyard's guidance and had four All-Americans (Mary Ballinger, Heather Cooksey, Allison Shafer, and Nicole Shepler). Shepler finished 28th in 1998, while Cooksey was 17th in 2004, Shafer was 15th in 2006, and Ballinger was 17th in 2007 and 10th in 2008.
The NCAA II Cross Country Coaches Association Newsletter recognized Hillyard as the Great Lakes Region Women's Coach of the Year in 1999 after leading the women's squad to the NCAA II Great Lakes Region championship.
On the track, Hillyard's Eagles have excelled both individually and as a team. He has directed the women's program to three top-10 finishes at the NCAA II Outdoor Championships and three top-15 finishes at the NCAA II Indoor Championships.
Under Hillyard's direction, 15 women have competed at the NCAA II Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Championships. In the last five years alone, nine athletes have earned a total of 26 All-America awards, including Heather Cooksey's national championship in the 3,000 meters at the 2004 Outdoor Championships--the first by any female in any sport at USI--and Candace Perry's national championship in the long jump at the 2005 Outdoor Championships.
Hillyard, who took over the tradition-rich men's program left by legendary USI and GLVC Hall of Fame Coach Bill Stegemoller, guided Joey Byrne, Paul Jellema, Ben Kapsoiya, Bryan Phillips, and Tim Sirbek to All-America performances in the NCAA II Cross Country Championships. Kapsoiya finished third in Hillyard's first season, while Byrne was 13th in 2001, Jellema was 24th in 2006 and 21st in 2007, Sirbek was 17th in 2007, and Phillips was 39th in 2008.
In track and field, Hillyard has guided 14 of his student athletes to 17 conference titles (15 individual and two relays). He has directed seven men's competitors to the NCAA II Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
Under Hillyard's watch, four student athletes have earned a total of eight All-America honors. He coached Ben Kapsoiya to All-America honors in the mile at the 1999 Indoor Championships as well as the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters at the 1999 Outdoor Championships; Jesse Davis to All-America honors in the 800 meters at the 2006 Indoor Championships; Jellema to All-America honors in the 5,000 meters at the 2007 Indoor Championships as well as the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the 2007 Outdoor Championships; and Sirbek to All-America honors in the steeplechase at the 2007 Outdoor Championships.
A native of Norris City, Illinois, and a 1994 USI graduate, Hillyard has a daughter Madison. Hillyard was a member of the USI cross country team and ran the steeplechase in track in 1992, earning All-America honors with a fifth-place performance at nationals. He placed 34th in the 1991 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships.