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Heins Named Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year by Big Sky

OGDEN, Utah – The Big Sky Conference announced Wednesday that Northern Arizona University Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins was named Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year for the sixth-consecutive year.

"I am honored to work with these young men," said Heins, who is in his sixth year at the helm of NAU's cross country program. "They are a very dedicated, motivated group and this award is a testament to what they have accomplished as a team."

Heins' re-set his own Big Sky Conference record this year for most successive Coach of the Year honors for cross country after rewriting the mark in 2011 previously held by former NAU and current Louisville head coach Ron Mann, who earned four-straight awards from 1998-2001.

The award comes on the heels of the Lumberjack men setting a record of their own after they won the team title at the Big Sky Conference Cross Country Championships Saturday at their home course of Buffalo Park in Flagstaff. The sixth-straight championship win for the NAU men is the most by any men's team in conference history, and is tied with the Northern Arizona women's squads of 1987-1992 for most by any team in the league's 50 year history.

Junior Brian Shrader was the official winner of the meet, giving the Lumberjacks eight-straight individual wins as well—another Big Sky record. However, the win was a team effort, as redshirt sophomore Matt McElroy and true freshman Futsum Zienasellassie crossed the finish line alongside Shrader.

While the 1-2-3 finish is great in its own right, the feat has more significance than meets the eye. All three runners are newcomers to the NAU cross country team in 2012.

Heins adds the 2012 honor to his already-impressive conference Coach of the Year tally that includes the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons. To his name, Heins has eight total awards for cross country (2007-2012 Men's CoY; 2007, 2009 Women's CoY), two for indoor track and field (2010 & 2012 Men's CoY), and one for outdoor track and field (2012 Men's CoY).

Heins also garnered the Mountain Region Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year award from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association in 2010.

What may be even more impressive, Heins has gone 4-for-4 in earning men's Coach of the Year honors from the Big Sky, dating back to the 2011 Cross Country Championships. His men's track and field team won both the 2012 indoor and outdoor track and field titles, earning him the honor in both instances.

Heins, a native of Zanesville, Ohio, began his coaching career as an assistant with Indiana in 2000, after which he served as a graduate assistant at NAU under Mann from 2001-2003. From NAU he moved on to Southeast Missouri State for three seasons, where he coached teams to a total of six Ohio Valley Conference Championships. Heins was an assistant coach at Texas Christian University for one season before coming back to NAU in 2007 to become the head cross country coach. Heins was promoted to Director of Track and Field and Cross Country in 2010.

The next competition for the NAU cross country teams is the NCAA Mountain Region Championships, to be held in Ft. Collins, Colo. on Nov. 10.