Linfield’s track & field and cross country programs absolutely would not be where they are today were it not for the guidance of longtime head coach Dr. Garry Killgore. Nine individual national championships and more than half of the Wildcats’ Top 10 performances in track & field were achieved under Killgore’s leadership, which spanned two decades.
When Killgore took over as head coach in 1989, he inherited a men’s program with decent history and a dozen student-athletes, but only four women in either track & field or cross country. But whether he built from a solid foundation or from scratch, the commonality for Killgore was the success the Wildcats achieved at the conference, regional and national levels from 1989 until 2010.
For Killgore, building successful programs meant not only recruiting the right student-athletes, but also teaching them how to be successful, sometimes in new specialties. Killgore was a coach that strived to be ahead of the curve. As conference chairperson, he challenged the league to begin competing in women’s pole vault and the hammer throw immediately, rather than taking the full three years the NCAA allowed for implementation in the mid 1990s.
In recognition of his success and leadership, Killgore was a six-time NCAA West Region Track & Field Coach of the Year, a seven-time NCIC/NWC Track & Field Coach of the Year and was honored as the NCIC Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year after leading the ‘Cats to the team title in 1994.
Killgore was also at the head of the programs during Linfield’s transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III. The change was seamless: 14 men and 19 women earned All-West Region recognition in cross country in the fall of 1998. Two years later, Linfield had its first national championship in Division III – an individual title in the 400-meter hurdles.
In total, the Wildcats produced 96 All-Americans, including 16 national runner-ups and nine championships during Killgore’s time as head track & field coach. In a testament to an ability to build solid all-around teams, the achievements spanned a wide variety of specialties, from 800 meters to the shot put to the decathlon. At the time of Killgore’s retirement in the spring of 2010, he had coached eight men’s and 18 women’s school record holders. An estimated 52 percent of men’s and 79 percent of the women’s current Top 10 marks were achieved during Killgore’s tenure.
As a team, the Wildcat men’s track & field program never finished below the top half of the Northwest Conference, winning the team title four times. The women claimed one team championship in 1996 and achieved top-four finishes in 18 of Killgore’s 21 seasons.
Killgore’s Wildcats also performed well in the classroom. A total of 35 Academic All-America citations were achieved in cross country, as well as 46 citations in track & field. One of his student-athletes, Hall of Fame member Amber Larsen, was a finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award, considered one of the greatest honors in collegiate athletics.
As an academic, Killgore set a great example for his student-athletes when it came to the importance of education. He was awarded Linfield’s Edith Green Distinguished Professorship Award in 2010, and was honored as the Oregon Association of Physical Education College/University Teacher of the Year in 2008.
Currently, Killgore serves as the chair of the Health, Human Performance and Athletics Department at Linfield College. He also founded AQx Sports, Inc., a land and water-based training and rehabilitation system. He and his wife, Lisa, have two children, Mike and Sarah.