Brent McLain holds the bottle of Dom Perignon he bought after winning his fifth national championship in cross country and announcing his resignation last month as athletic director and coach at Rend Lake College. In the 10 years he coached at RLC, the 44-year-old Benton resident led the Warriors to six national championships with 34 individual national champions and 220 NJCAA All-Americans. His assistant coach, former Warrior runner Eric Alberter, has been named head coach of cross country at RLC. CLICK HERE for a larger image.
Rend Lake College Head Soccer Coach Jim Duncan has been named the college's interim director of athletics. Duncan said he has a supportive staff that will help him meet the challenges that come with his new role at RLC. Duncan is a resident of Mt. Vernon. CLICK HERE for a larger image.
INA, Ill. – Five-time national coach of the year Brent McLain is going out on a high note. The college’s first coach to win a national championship announced his resignation from coaching and administrative positions after leading his cross country team to its fifth NJCAA title.
Jim Duncan, the college’s 50-year-old soccer coach and pastor from Mt. Vernon, Ill., has accepted the position on an interim basis.
“Jim has definitely proven that he can lead athletes after turning a one-win inaugural season into an even .500 sophomore year,” said RLC Vice President of Finance and Administration Larry West, who oversees athletics. “Now we’ll see how he does leading an athletics department. I have a lot of confidence he will be successful. Brent’s shoes will be tough to fill. He did an outstanding job managing our large athletics program. But I think we’ve found the right man to continue that job.”
McLain will always be remembered at RLC for playing a key role in putting the Warriors on the map. He started the cross country program in 2000 and track and field two years later. McLain is leaving behind two of the best programs in the NJCAA, which took him a decade to build from a seventh-place cross country start and 13th in track the first year. In the years he coached at Rend Lake, he won five national titles in cross country (‘01,’02,’03,’06,’09) and one in indoor track (‘08). In addition to 34 national champions and 220 All-American selections, McLain coached Boaz Lalang to a 2008 Summer Olympic qualifying spot on the Kenyan national team and a professional career with Adidas the following fall, and sprinter Ryan Bailey to a Nike contract in 2009. Both hold current NJCAA records.
McLain worked mostly with the distance runners, being a former collegiate distance runner at the University of Alabama (1983-87) and a two-time IHSA Class AA state champ. His first national champion was Ian Hornabrook of Australia who led the team to its first cross country title in 2001. His five NJCAA Coach of the Year honors came in cross country in ‘01, ‘02, ‘03 and ‘06, and another in track and field.
Just after winning at nationals in mid-November, McLain said, “I’m going out on top. This is the highlight of my career here. Both teams had such a great day. We couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Not only did his team bring home the title, but McLain’s runner, Stephen Sambu, came back wearing his second straight individual cross country crown.
McLain’s assistant coach and former runner, Eric Alberter, has now stepped into a head coaching role. He talked about the Warriors and Sambu being ranked #1 in the nation all season long, as well as McLain not getting “Coach of the Year” despite leading the Warriors in what was arguably the perfect season.
“The toughest thing to do is to have that bullseye on your back all year,” Alberter said. “But we stepped up and did it. For [McLain], the team title is more important than the individual title. He would trade in any of his coach of the year awards for team titles in a heartbeat.”
McLain cited health concerns and more time for family as the chief reasons for stepping down. He plans to stay in Benton, Ill., where he lives with his wife, Dee, and their three children. They are expecting another child early next year.
The RLC Board of Trustees accepted his resignation with regret at their December meeting last week.
Duncan, who just wrapped up his second season as soccer coach, is just beginning his career at RLC. Still days into his new position as interim AD, he said he is ready for the challenge.
“It’s an awfully big task to jump into head first,” he said. “I have a good support team. Larry, Julie [Oxford, administrative assistant] and all of the coaches have been very helpful and supportive. It makes it a lot easier.”