Meet the coach: Ryan Hlinak

An in depth look at assistant cross country coach Ryan Hlinak.


Addison Lane

Coach Hlinak at the Peoria Meet.

Ryan Hlinak is entering his seventh year as an assistant coach and is excited to see what the team can do this season. On top of coaching, Hlinak is a math teacher at the high school and he describes life at home as very busy.

“I spend a lot of time with my family,” Hlinak said. “I have two daughters so there are sports and activities and stuff like that always going on.” 

However, cross country has not always been the sport he has focused on. While at Antioch Community High School, Hlinak did in fact run cross country, but wrestling was his primary sport. He was one of the best wrestlers that the high school has ever seen. One of Hlinak’s biggest accomplishments was coming in sixth at the 2000 state meet. 

Hlinak continued wrestling after high school, going to the University of Chicago and advancing to the quarterfinals of the Division III National Championships in 2004. After college, Hlinak returned to Antioch Community High School and coached wrestling before making the switch to cross country.

“I ran cross country in high school and I got into running a little late in life too,” Hlinak said. “I started running marathons and just really enjoyed the distance stuff so I figured I would try it out and I really really enjoy it.” 

Both the boys and girls cross country teams are looking strong this year which have the coaches hoping for sectional and potentially state qualifying teams. Running is a challenging sport and it takes not only physical strength, but mental strength too.  

“Seeing the kids improve is so motivating,” Hlinak said. “Just watching them go from little freshmen to their junior and senior years is so fun to see and that definitely keeps me motivated.”

It is not uncommon to see coaches running with their runners, but, some runners feel more encouraged when they know they have a coach out on there with them on the course. 

“Coach helps us because he runs with us and leads by example,” said sophomore Griffin Freeman. “He is a positive for our team and just pushes us to be our best.” 

The Sequoit cross country team is very thankful to have Hlinak as part of the Griffinieteam. Not only is he the one who energizes the team, a lot of the workouts the runners do are fit exactly for each person, and Hlinak is the one who crunches the numbers to make sure they are correct. 

“Coach isn’t gonna be the super loud guy,” senior Braxton Schieler said. “He’s going to keep us motivated and he’s always the guy behind the scenes who has the numbers figured out, and knowing exactly what times we need to hit is huge.”

The Antioch cross country teams have a long season ahead of them and hope to end up in Peoria in November.