50 Influencers: Brent McLain, Running Away with History

INA, Ill. (April 22, 2017) - Two Olympians, five NJCAA Coach of the Year Awards, seven NJCAA National Championships and more regional championships that you can shake a baton at, former Cross-Country and Track and Field Coach Brent McLain put RLC on the map.

The success started quickly. In just his second season, McLain’s Men’s Cross-Country team was the No. 1 team in the country in Division II. The “Winged Warriors” became the first team in college history to capture an NJCAA National Championship.

brentmclainmugmediaBrent McLain

“Unbelievable,” McLain said following the team’s championship. “I was so happy for the team. They wanted it. And they worked hard to achieve it. It is a great day for us . . . an outstanding accomplishment for our school and our program.”

Not content with a single national championship. McLain’s team repeated the next year and again captured Coach of the Year accolades. The same team that became the first Southern Illinois Juco team in any sport to win a national title in fall 2001 likewise became the first to repeat.

He also gave an inside look at what strategy they used to bring home a second national championship: “… this year (2002) provided even more of a sense of accomplishment. I really believe it was a lot more satisfying. Our strategy was to run as a pack the first two miles, so we could be stronger the last three miles, and that is exactly what they did. We were getting beat pretty bad at the two-mile point, but by the three-mile point I was starting to get excited the way they were making up ground. By the fourth mile, I probably had a smile from ear to ear. By the fifth mile I was getting pretty emotional.”

But, the emotion didn’t end there. The “Winged Warriors” cemented their legacy by three-peating  in 2003, again earning McLain National Coach of the Year and a third NJCAA Division II Men’s Cross-Country National Championships.

McLain had yet another national championship in him, after finishing third in 2004 and 05, the “Winged Warriors” team went the distance in 2006 to earn title number four, this time in NJCAA Division I.

The dominating Men’s Cross-Country reign at the turn of the century was headed by Brent McLain and the likes of two-time Division II National front-runner Ian Hornabrook from Australia and Kenyans Elkanah Kibet, Ben Cheruiyot and Stephen Sambu. The triumphant D-II Championships in fall 2001, 2002 and 2003 were magnified when the program also captured combined Division I crowns in 2006 and 2009.

McLain also coached some of the most decorated and successful athletes to compete under the Warrior banner.

BLalangOlympicsBoaz Lalang

Kenyan native Boaz Lalang “put Ina in China” when he became the first Warrior to compete at the highest level in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Lalang fell just short of making the finals, but the experience left an imprint on not only Lalang, but also his coach. It also showed a coming together of groups in and around RLC to make dreams come true.

Donations from Rend Lake College faculty and staff, as well as other boosters in Southern Illinois, enabled Lalang to return home to Eldoret, Kenya, for the attempt to qualify.

A generous, surprise gift from the RLC Foundation made it possible for the McLains to enjoy the thrill of the Olympic experience with Lalang.

The McLains said after the competition: “We’re not disappointed, but so happy to know an Olympian and have the joy of knowing we get to spend one more year with him . . . Thanks, Boaz, for giving us all a once-in-a lifetime experience. We are so proud of you and feel so thankful and lucky that we had the chance to represent you and Rend Lake College in Beijing.”

Lalang says of his Juco mentor, “I like Coach McLain. Sometimes he gets mad, but I understand him. He is the right coach for the right runner.”

sambuchampwSteven Sambu

Much like Lalang, fellow Kenyan Steven Sambu found not only success, but a home at RLC.

Sambu set himself apart by becoming the most decorated Warrior in team history. During his time at Ina, Sambu claimed 10 NJCAA crowns and 13 All-America distinctions before departing in 2010 for University of Arizona, where he was NCAA Cross-Country runner-up in the fall.

“Coach McLain did a lot of things for me. He helped me a lot. I will not forget,” Sambu said.

Bailey100mwithflashRyan Bailey

Four years after Lalang carried Warrior dreams to the Olympics, another Ina athlete not only carried on that tradition but this time, he brought home some hardware.

Ryan Bailey represented the USA when he became the fifth-fastest man in the world at the 2012 London Olympics. Bailey surprised nearly everyone but himself by earning the third spot on the USA 100M squad behind two veterans.

During his year at RLC, Bailey won the Indoor 55M in 6.20 and the Outdoor 100M in 10.07 at the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Men’s Division I Track and Field Championships.

At the 2012 London Games, Bailey came in 5th in the finals of the men’s 100 meter behind some of the biggest names to ever compete in the iconic race, missing a medal by 0.09 seconds. He became the first Warrior to win an Olympic medal when he anchored the USA 4 x 100-Meter Relay Team to Silver. He ran the final stretch of the relay against iconic Jamaican Usain Bolt.

All said and told, McLain spent nine years coaching the cross-country team and eight years at the helm of the men’s track program.

MEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY

2000-2019

MEN’S TRACK AND FIELD

2001-2009

2008-2009

Men’s Indoor Track and Field ~

Region XXIV Champion (3rd, NJCAA Championships)

Anthony Acklin / NJCAA “Assistant Coach of the Year”

Men’s Outdoor Track and Field ~

Region XXIV Champion (3rd, NJCAA Championships)

Men’s Cross-Country ~

Region XXIV Champion (4th, NJCAA Championships)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~

Men’s Cross-Country (3.29 GPA, 1st-tie / 6)

2007-2008

Men’s Indoor Track and Field ~

NJCAA Division I National Champion (1st, Region XXIV)

Brent McLain / Men’s Indoor Track and Field “Coach of the Meet”

Men’s Outdoor Track and Field ~

Region XXIV Champion (3rd, NJCAA Championships)

Women’s Outdoor Track and Field ~

Region XXIV Champion (3rd, NJCAA Championships)

Men’s Cross-Country ~

Region XXIV Champion (4th, NJCAA Championships)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~

Men’s Track and Field (3.26 GPA, 4th ~ Coaches Association)

2006-2007

Men’s Cross-Country ~

NJCAA Division I National Champion (1st, Region XXIV)

Men’s Indoor Track and Field ~

NJCAA Championship Runner-Up (1st, Region XXIV)

Men’s Outdoor Track and Field ~

Region XXIV Champion (4th-tie, NJCAA Championships)

2005-2006

Men’s Indoor Track and Field ~

NJCAA Championship Runner-Up (1st, Region XXIV Division)

Brent McLain / NJCAA “Coach of the Year”

Men’s Cross-Country ~

Region XXIV Champion (3rd, NJCAA Championships)

NJCAA Academic Teams of the Year ~

Cross-Country (3.11 GPA, 5th / 9)

2004-2005

Men’s Indoor Track and Field ~

NJCAA Championship Runner-Up (1st, Region XXIV Division)

Brent McLain / NJCAA “Coach of the Year”

Men’s Cross-Country ~

Region XXIV Champion (3rd, NJCAA Championships)

Men’s Outdoor Track and Field ~

5th, NJCAA National Championships

2003-2004

Men’s Cross-Country ~

NJCAA Division II National Champion (1st, Region XXIV D-II)

Brent McLain / NJCAA D-II “Coach of the Year”

Men’s Indoor Track and Field ~

Region XXIV Champion (3rd, NJCAA Championships)

Men’s Outdoor Track and Field ~

6th, NJCAA National Championships

2002-2003

Men’s Cross-Country ~

NJCAA Division II National Champion (1st, Region XXIV D-II)

Brent McLain / NJCAA D-II “Coach of the Year”

Men’s Indoor Track and Field ~

NJCAA Championship National Runner-Up (1st, Region XXIV)

Men’s Outdoor Track and Field ~

7th, NJCAA National Championships

2001-2002

Men’s Cross-Country ~

NJCAA Division II National Champion (1st, Region XXIV)

Brent McLain / NJCAA D-II “Coach of the Year”

Men’s Indoor Track and Field ~

Region XXIV Champion (13th, NJCAA Championships)

Men’s Outdoor Track and Field ~

Region XXIV Champion

2000-2001

Men’s Cross-Country ~

7th, NJCAA Division II Championships

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