NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced on Tuesday the winners of USTFCCCA Region Coaches of the Year honors for the 2012 cross country season in Division I as voted by the division's coaches, and among them, for the first time in his career, was Northern Arizona University's Eric Heins.
Heins garnered the award after his Lumberjack men's team unexpectedly won Friday's Mountain Region Championships over then-No. 2 Colorado and No. 7 BYU.
"The credit goes to the guys for executing their race place, winning their race, and winning the Mountain Region," said Heins, who now is in his sixth year at the helm of the cross country program and third as Director of Track and Field and Cross Country. "For me, it's an honor to be listed among the names of [Colorado's} Mark Wetmore, [BYU's] Ed Eyestone, and [New Mexico's] Joe Franklin, three of the past coaches of the year."
Though the regional honor is Heins' first for cross country, he earned Mountain Region Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year honors in 2010. In addition, Heins has won the past six Big Sky Conference coaching honors for men's cross country, and owns five other conference awards from women's cross country (2007, 2009) and men's indoor (2010, 2012) and outdoor (2012) track and field.
The Lumberjack men were ranked No. 18 nationally heading into Friday's regional meet, which they had only previously won five times (1976, 1987-89, 2002) in program history. But after placing three runners in the Top 15 and all five scorers on the All-Region team, not to mention knocking off two of the Top 10 teams in the nation, the Lumberjacks head into the NCAA Championships this weekend sporting a No. 10 ranking.
Heins will take his men's squad and women's individual Rochelle Kanuho to Louisville, Ky. for the championship races Saturday at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park. The women's race takes off at 10 a.m. Mountain time with the men following at 11:15. Both races will be streamed live beginning at 10 a.m. on NCAA.com.