EUGENE, Ore. – The sports of track and field and cross country lost one of its giants last month with the passing of legendary Indiana State coach John McNichols at the age of 66 due to complications from a stroke.
McNichols, who spent 34 years at the helm of the Sycamores’ track and field and cross country programs, first arrived in Terre Haute, Ind., in the fall of 1983 as a 33-year-old head coach. He immediately sparked a renaissance in those sports, not only for Indiana State and the local community, but for the entire nation.
A gifted technician, innovator and mentor, McNichols was revered throughout the world for his passion, dedication and loyalty to all those who crossed his path, especially the many athletes, coaches and officials who benefitted from his tutelage and friendship.
During his tenure at Indiana State, he coached on both the national and global stage, developed a reputation as one of the sport’s top meet officials, served on numerous USA Track & Field committees in an effort to improve the sport, and was known as one of the world’s preeminent minds in Olympic-level hurdling.
“John was one of the most respected coaches in the country,” said TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna. “He was a good friend, an incredible innovator for our sport, and a class act at all times. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his wife, Linda, his family, and the Indiana State community.”
Besides guiding Indiana State to 38 Missouri Valley Conference team championships, and coaching All-American athletes in four different decades, McNichols masterminded the development and construction of the finest cross country course in the U.S. – the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, which has been the site of 12 NCAA Cross Country Championships and numerous other large meets.
It was one of many community projects which McNichols spearheaded throughout his exemplary career. He was always generous with his time and people rallied around his unflinching commitment to find solutions to problems, no matter how big or small those obstacles may have been.
“One of my fondest memories of John was watching him and co-meet director John Gartland blowing the standing water off the cross country course the day before the NCAA meet,” Lananna said. “A lot of people were concerned about the puddles and the muddy conditions on the course, so in John’s inimitable style, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work. He never complained but rather looked for solutions.”
McNichols belongs to both the Indiana Track & Cross Country Hall of Fame (2007) and the Drake Relays Coaching Hall of Fame (2008).