Austin Nolan: Runner, coach, brother

Austin Nolan, USI alumnus, returns to the cross-country and track and field team as a coach under head coach Mike Hillyard in Division I.

Photo courtesy of USI Photography

Austin Nolan, USI alumnus, returns to the cross-country and track and field team as a coach under head coach Mike Hillyard in Division I.

Quinton Watt, Sports Editor

USI 2022 graduate Austin Nolan makes his return to campus to coach cross-country and track and field. 

Nolan joined the coaching staff to assist head coach Mike Hillyard after being hired in September 2022.

“At the end of the day, hiring Austin was definitely an easy decision,” Hillyard said. “He has great camaraderie with the athletes, knows the training and the sport. He’s going to be a tremendous asset.”

Nolan followed in his parents’ footsteps by contributing to the rich history of USI running. His mother, Tammy Nolan, coached USI cross-country and track and field from 1994-1997. His father, Jim Nolan, is in theUSI and Great Lakes Valley Conference hall of fame. His near 40-year-old 8K record was recently broken by distance runner Noah Hufnagel

During Austin Nolan’s running career at USI, he was named two-time cross-country GLVC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and combined eight-time GLVC champion across cross-country and track and field.

Austin said the idea of coaching was always in the back of his mind.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Austin said. “I approached coach Hillyard sophomore year and said it was something I was leaning towards. To do it at USI is just a dream come true.”

Austin grew up a mile away from campus, so exposure to university came naturally to him. Being hired next to Hillyard was just what he needed to kickstart his coaching career. 

“To be an assistant to coach Hillyard is a dream,” Austin said. “I mean his accomplishments speak for themselves, and he’s one of the best coaches to learn from.”

Even though Austin has graduated, his studying days are far from over as he is constantly studying the sport of running.

“I’m always reading and watching videos on physiology, endurance running and the effects of nutrition,” Austin said. “That’s something I’ve definitely taken up a notch.”

The way that he looks at running has become more about why for Austin with his new job.

“Why are we doing this?” Austin said. “Why are we using this specific workout? What work do we need to do on a specific day?”

Austin’s career is not just about coaching, but being a role model to his brother Alex Nolan, a red-shirt freshman.

“A big reason I came to USI was to help him,” Austin said. “I think of myself as a hard worker, but he’s arguably the hardest working person I’ve ever met in my life.”

The duo never had the opportunity to run together in races because of their age difference, but that has opened the door for Austin to teach Alex more about his experiences.

“He’s an incredibly positive person and just someone you want on your team,” Austin said.

Alex said he could only give Austin more praise back for being his coach and someone to look up to.

“I try really hard to work on my times and everything,” Alex said. “So, it just means the world to me that he would say something like that.”

Alex will miss his first year as a red-shirt due to a leg injury from his senior year of high school, but the two are looking forward to doing big things here at the university. 

“Obviously we can’t go to nationals because of the transition,” Austin said. “But I think we’re the front runner for the OVC Championships, especially the girls.”

The women’s team has been led by McKenna Cavanaugh and Lauren Greiwe who Austin said were “obvious selections” to win.

Men’s and women’s cross-country aims to close out their regular season Oct.14 at the Bradley Pink Classic in Peoria, Illinois before the OVC Championships at the end of the month.

To see more on the cross-country schedule, click here.