INA - Brent McLain will board a plane next month with checklist in hand. For a man retired RLC President Mark Kern called “the most organized person I have ever known,” it goes without saying he will be prepared. And while the list will include his ticket and toothbrush, the main item will read “live a lifelong dream.”
Rend Lake College and the Rend Lake College Foundation are sending the seven-year RLC cross country, and track and field coach to the 2008 Games in Beijing, China. There, he will get to watch his first Warrior-turned-Olympian – junior college track phenom Boaz Lalang – compete on the world stage.
RLC Vice President of Finance and Administration Larry West said McLain was speechless and overwhelmed upon learning Wednesday that he would be bound for Beijing next month.
“He actually hugged me!” West said. “I don’t think he quite knew how to respond with words, but after that, I could tell he was overjoyed.”
“I’ve known for a whole day now and I still don’t know what to say,” McLain said today. “I am honored and grateful to be given this opportunity. I hate to travel, but I wouldn’t trade this chance for anything. This means the world to me and I am so excited to be able to be there as Boaz goes up against the best in the world. I know it is a coach’s job to inspire. But every now and then, you get a runner who reminds you of the pure joy of coaching. He is inspirational.”
Lalang, 19,of Eldoret, Kenya, sailed through the indoor and outdoor national championships this past season as a Warrior, picking up individual titles in the 800m, 1,000m and mile run, and leading his team to an indoor championship. He holds the world’s season-best collegiate mile and 800m marks. He qualified to represent his native country in the 800m at the Kenyan Olympic Trials in July. As his marks kept getting better and better throughout the season, internet chatter increased about the runner from Rend Lake whose name announcers coast-to-coast couldn’t seem to pronounce correctly – it’s pronounced “boh-az la-lng.” Now, there is a buzz about Boaz circulating heavily in cyberspace chat rooms and running blogs.
McLain would probably place himself at the end of the line for such an opportunity. However modest and selfless he may be, RLC Foundation CEO Pat Kern and West agreed there is no better person for the honor of representing Warriors athletics abroad.
“Becoming an athlete of this caliber is a great tribute to not only Boaz himself, but to coach McLain,” West said. “Brent being in attendance, while his runner competes at the pinnacle of track and field competition, is the culmination of McLain’s tireless effort to recruit and train Lalang.”
“I really feel passionate about this,” Pat Kern said. “This may be a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I think we should send a representative. I give Brent a lot of credit for recruiting Boaz and now he will have a unique opportunity to recruit in Beijing... an opportunity most coaches would not have received.”
Included in the RLC Foundation’s mission is support of excellence and tradition, according to Kern. The Foundation annually awards outstanding members of the faculty and staff, and has focused the past year or so on recognizing excellence with construction of the Walls of Fame and Honor on campus and introducing the first Wall of Fame Recognition Ceremony this spring.
“I see this as another way of supporting and recognizing the high caliber of students and staff here at RLC,” she added. “I see this as being a part of that same mission.”
When Kern took the idea to RLCF Board Chairman Hunt Bonan, he asked if Lalang would be returning in the fall, she said.
“The answer is yes, which makes this honor even more meaningful,” Kern explained.
McLain is the Assistant to the Vice President of Finance and Administration for Athletics, and Athletic Director, in addition to his coaching duties at the college. He is a four-time National Junior College Coach of the Year and two-time Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Class AA State Champion in cross country. He ran four years at the University of Alabama before taking a coaching role at Benton Consolidated High School. He coached there for four years before moving on to Carterville High School and, from there, to RLC in 2001.
His trip won’t be all play. McLain’s role will be one of Olympic ambassador of sorts for the college and its Foundation. Moreover, the college’s IT department, under Vice President Salah Shakir and Director Terry Roedl, are equipping McLain with a 21st century approach to chronicling his journey. He will get technology to report ongoing accounts of his Olympic trek. He will also be e-mailing daily journal updates and posting images from China, all of which will be distributed to local media by the college’s public information department. Additionally, there are plans for McLain to host live reports, via a webcam, with real-time audio and video where individuals at a college site can logon and interact. Hopefully, McLain said, Lalang can be a part of a broadcast or two. Coordinators are still deciding when the broadcasts will occur and where the on-campus site will be. This information will be released once plans are finalized.
“Rend Lake College, in cooperation with the Rend Lake College Foundation, felt it would be a great benefit sending coach McLain to the Beijing Olympics,” West said. “We are very proud of both Boaz and Brent. This gives everyone tied to RLC a wonderfully-vested interest in the games this year. We will all be following with watchful eyes, particularly when the men’s 800m run is announced.”
According to the schedule on the official 2008 Olympics website, the men’s 800m opening round will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 20 with the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21. The men’s 800m finals will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23. Please note that the site did not specify to which time zone the schedule refers. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) has announced it will have heavy coverage of the 2008 Games from China and coverage will be accessible from numerous sources on the internet.
Former International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch said last year that he believes the Beijing games will be “the best in Olympic history.” According to reports, 10,500 athletes are expected to compete in 302 events in 28 sports, spread out among 37 venues. Lalang will compete in China’s National Stadium, nicknamed the “bird nest” for its unique design.