When Tom Heinonen became the Running Club's coach in 2003, he brought with him years of experience that provide an unmatched opportunity for Club runners. Tom began as a volunteer coach for the Club after 27 years (1975 to 2002) of head coaching responsibilities for the Oregon Ducks women's track and field and cross country programs. In his tenure, he led one of the most successful women's programs in the NCAA, bringing home two NCAA cross country championships, in 1983 and 1987, and qualifying for the national meet 24 times. He was NCAA Coach of the Year twice and was inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame in 2006.
As a pioneer for women's track at Oregon, Tom took the program from its infancy to one of the most powerful names in women's distance. Tom coached NCAA champions and collegiate record-holders at every distance from 800-meters to 10,000-meters. He coached Annette Peters in college and beyond, helping her to an NCAA 5000m title in 1988, a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 1992, and an American Record in the 5000m in 1993, when she became the first American woman to break 15:00. He guided his athletes to 15 NCAA/AIAW titles, 108 All-America honors and 55 Pac-10/NorPac Conference titles in track and field. Many of his athletes went on to have post-collegiate success, with three American records, 17 Olympic appearances, 10 World Championships invites, 12 U.S. national track and field titles, 22 World Championships cross country invites, and five U.S. cross country crowns. His 1985 track team won the NCAA championship.
Tom first showed his athletic talent as a senior at Robbinsdale (Minnesota) High School by finishing fifth at the cross country state meet and second in the indoor mile. After graduation, he became a member of Roy Griak's first recruiting class at the University of Minnesota in 1963. As a Gopher, Tom was a member of the 1964 Big Ten champion cross country team, finishing fourth individually. Heinonen won a Big Ten title at three-miles and earned All-American distinction at six-miles in his senior year. Tom continued racing after college, clocking the fastest marathon time by an American in 1968 (2:18:30), representing the USA at the World Cross Country Championships the same year, and winning the 1969 AAU Marathon title. His wife Janet ran a 3:00 marathon, wrote two books on running, produced two long-standing newsletters about issues in international track & field, and now works on behalf on scholars from rural high schools in Kenya. Their son Erik and daughter Liisa both ran at the NCAA level.
Tom has now brought his success to the club setting. Beginning with a small corps of runners in 2003, he's built the program both in size and scope. In 2007, he added two more national championships to his tally, as the team took home NIRCA cross country championships for both men and women. The Club men won again in 2012 and 2016. He has guided Club athletes who have gone on to join the NCAA team at Oregon. Tom has molded the Club into a group which enjoys running together and racing at all levels of collegiate competition.
Oregon Track Coach Legends - goducks.com
Tom Heinonen, USTFCCCA Class of 2006 - ustfccca.org