Chris Solinsky ’07 is living out his dream of mentoring young runners, giving them the sort of guidance in athletics and life that led him to become a national-champion distance runner at UW–Madison.
“I feel blessed. Running opened the door to college,” says Solinsky, a Stevens Point Area High School running legend who was named in July 2017 as assistant coach of cross country and track at the University of Florida. That appointment followed a stint as head cross country coach and an assistant track coach at The College of William and Mary.
“Being able to have an impact on young men’s lives and help them move in the right direction as well-developed, contributing members of society is the hidden gem of this job,” says Solinsky, who models his approach after that of his high school coaches, Donn Behnke and Pat Leahy.
Solinsky won three state high school cross-country titles before coming to UW–Madison, where he earned a history degree in 2007. Along the way, he amassed four Big Ten individual titles, 14 All-America honors, and five individual NCAA titles.
“You take some gut punches and keep going.”
During his professional running career, Solinsky ran under contract with Nike and KIMbia Athletics. In 2010, he became the first non-African runner to break the 27-minute mark in the 10,000 meters, and weeks later, he broke the 13-minute mark in the 5,000 meters, achieving a personal best.
But he missed out on the 2008 Olympics after fading in the 5,000-meter Olympic trial in the last 200 meters, falling from first to fifth.
“You take some gut punches and keep going. I used that experience as fuel for the rest of my career,” says Solinsky, who coached at the University of Portland before moving on to William and Mary.
“I learned at UW–Madison that athletics, in combination with academics, can open a lot of doors,” says Solinsky, whose wife, Amy, was a Badger pole vaulter.
Thank you, Portage County, for sending us Chris Solinsky — whose tenacity helped to set him apart as one of the top runners in the world, and who uses his hard-won experience to help shape young athletes.