Earlier today, the University of Illinois announced that they have hired Helen Lehman-Winters as the team's next distance coach. The newest leader of Illinois' distance program previously oversaw the women's cross country and distance teams at the University of San Francisco and later Oregon. According to Illinois' press release, "Lehman-Winters' contract is pending approval by the UI Board of Trustees at its September meeting."
The hire comes just a few short weeks after Illinois' former distance coach, Sarah Haveman, took a job at the University of Texas as the team's next women's distance coach.
From 2003 to 2018, Lehman-Winters oversaw the Dons at the University of San Francisco. There, she utilized impressive overseas recruiting to help her women's cross country team finish 2nd place overall at the 2017 national meet. She also guided Charlotte Taylor to the 2017 national title over 10,000 meters.
At Oregon, Lehman-Winters coached from 2018 to 2022 as she attempted to manage a women's distance roster that saw significant turnover following the departures of Andy and Maurica Powell to the University of Washington.
The Ducks did thrive at the 2018 NCAA XC Championships to place 3rd, but multiple departures, transfers and expired eligibility made it challenging for the Oregon women to replicate that success in the ensuing seasons.
However, during that four-year window, the Ducks did see both Jessica Hull (2019) and Carmela Cardama Baez (2021) win national titles in the 3000 meters and the 10,000 meters, respectively.
In the summer of 2022, Coach Jerry Schumacher was hired as the University of Oregon's next Director of Track & Field and Cross Country. As a result, both former Oregon distance coaches, Ben Thomas and Helen Lehman-Winters, were replaced by Schumacher and Shalane Flanagan.
Lehman-Winters will now be overseeing a men's distance program that has struggled to climb out of the middle portion of the BIG 10 standings on the grass. The women's team, however, made massive strides under Coach Sarah Haveman, earning two national meet appearances during her tenure.
And while the Fighting Illini' women still have some work to do following the departure of Olivia Howell to the transfer portal (as a graduate student), Lehman-Winters should still have a solid young core to work with over the next few years.