Eric Heins enters his ninth season as the head coach at Northern Arizona University and sixth as the Director of Track & Field and Cross Country. He has won 26 Big Sky Championships and produced eight top-10 national finishes in his first eight seasons at NAU.
In his eight years since returning to Flagstaff, Heins has been named Coach of the Year by the Big Sky Conference 24 times, including four such titles during last season’s cross country and track and field campaigns.
In 2014, Heins guided the men’s cross country team to its eighth-straight Big Sky Conference Championship, while also helping the women’s squad secure its second conference title in the last six seasons. The men’s team went on to compete at the NCAA Championships, where they earned a fourth-place finish thanks in part to junior Futsum Zienasellassie’s individual performance. Zienasellassie’s third-place finish in 2014 was the third time in the Heins era that a cross country member placed in the top-three at nationals.
That momentum carried over into the 2015 track and field season, where Heins led the Lumberjack men to indoor and outdoor conference titles, marking the fifth-straight triple crown for the NAU men and the seventh overall in school history. Under his direction, Heins also saw the women’s team notch a third place finish at the indoor championships and a fourth place finish at the outdoor championships.
The 2014 track and field season was also one to remember, as Heins watched both squads win the Big Sky Indoor and Outdoor Conference Championships under his leadership. The outdoor championship was won in Flagstaff, marking the first time the Lumberjack women have won the outdoor championship since 2006.
The 2013 cross county teams continued to flourish during the Heins era, as the men’s team secured its seventh-consecutive Big Sky Championship, and ninth-consecutive individual title. The Lumberjack men also finished the season ranked second in the country, thanks in part to All-American performances by Brian Shrader, Matt McElroy and Zienasellassie.
The track and field teams experienced much of the same success in 2013 with Heins at the helm. During that season, the NAU men’s team secured another conference title, cranking out 143.5 mark at the indoor championship and recording a 143 score at the outdoor meet. Heins’ men’s mid-distance group also took home a total of six individual Big Sky titles during the 2013 track and field campaign. The women’s track and field teams finished third at the Big Sky Outdoor Championships and sixth at the indoor meet during the 2013 season.
Under Heins, the cross country program has finished in the top-10 eight times at the NCAA Championships with 11 athletes earning cross country All-American accolades
Academically, the cross country teams have received the USTFCCCA All-Academic Team award five times under Heins’ direction, while his student-athletes from both cross country and track and field have earned a combined 463 Big Sky All-Academic honors since 2007. Former NAU cross country and track and field star David McNeill was named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America team in 2009 and 2010, while also being named the 2010 Track and Field Division I Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Heins has also had two student-athletes earn academic All-American honors, while Lopez Lomong became Heins’ first athlete to be inducted into the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.
Before Being Named NAU’s Head Coach
From 2001-03, Heins served as an assistant for the Lumberjacks under then-Head Coach Ron Mann. During his first tenure, the men’s team finished as high as fourth place at the NCAA Championships, while the women took home a 10th place finish. From there, Heins went to Southeast Missouri State, where he spent three years coaching the Redhawks to six different Ohio Valley Conference Championships.
Heins returned to NAU as a head coach after serving as an assistant during the 2006-07 season at Texas Christian University. In his only season with the TCU Horned Frogs, he guided both the men’s and women’s teams to top-10 finishes at the NCAA South Central Regional. He also saw five of his runners honored as Mountain West Conference Scholar-Athletes.
Heins began his coaching career as an assistant in 2000 at Indiana and ran for Cincinnati from 1995-99. He earned his bachelor’s degree in health promotion and education. At the 1997 Indoor Conference USA Championships, he achieved his highest individual accomplishment by placing third in the 3,000m. He also notched top-10 finishes in both the indoor and outdoor 5,000m, as well as the outdoor 10,000m.
In 2001, Heins earned a master’s in kinesiology from Indiana University. In November 2007, he competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon in New York, N.Y. Other accolades include winning the St. Louis Marathon in 2004 and placing first in his age group, and fifth overall, in the 2000 Marine Corps Marathon.
Northern Arizona’s Cross Country and Track and Field Programs (With Heins as Head Coach)
2015 Track & Field Indoor & Outdoor Big Sky Champions (Men)
2014 Cross Country Big Sky Conference Champions (Men and Women)
2014 Track & Field Indoor & Outdoor Big Sky Champions (Men & Women)
2013 Cross Country Big Sky Conference Champions (Men)
2013 Track & Field Indoor & Outdoor Big Sky Champions (Men)
2013 – Six individual Track & Field Indoor & Outdoor Big Sky titles
2012 Cross Country Big Sky Conference Champions (Men)
2012 Track & Field Indoor & Outdoor Big Sky Champions (Men)
2012 – Six individual Track & Field Indoor & Outdoor Big Sky titles
2012 – Estrada, McNeill & Lomong represent their respective countries in the London Olympics
2011 Cross Country Big Sky Conference Champions (Men)
2010 Cross Country Big Sky Conference Champions (Men)
2010 Track & Field Indoor Big Sky Champions (Men)
2010 – McNeill named national champion in indoor & outdoor 5,000m
2009 Cross Country Big Sky Conference Champions (Men and Women)
2009 Track & Field Indoor & Outdoor Big Sky Champions (Men)
2009 Track & Field Indoor Big Sky Champions (Women)
2008 Cross Country Big Sky Conference Champions (Men and Women)
2008 Track & Field Outdoor Big Sky Champions (Men)
2008 – Lomong represents the US at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
2007 Cross Country Big Sky Conference Champions (Men and Women)