It should come as no surprise that one of the greatest distance runners of the 1960s and 1970s spawned one of the premier collegiate running programs in NCAA Division II history at Seattle Pacific University. Both in America and around the globe, the name of Doris Brown Heritage is synonymous with the best in women’s distance running.
Over the last 40 years, Heritage has been a pioneer for the sport, a competitor without peer, and later, coach to some of the greatest collegians on record. Further, she is considered one of the Northwest’s greatest personalities of the 20th century by both Sports Illustrated and The Seattle Times.
During the 1960s and 1970s, she set the standard for women’s distance standouts of today. Under the direction of Ken Foreman, the then-Doris Brown set two American records before graduating from SPU in 1964. Eventually, she owned every national and world record from 440 yards up to the mile. And the longer the distance, the more dominant she became. From 1967-71, Heritage won an unprecedented five consecutive world cross country championships and raced on nine U.S. teams.
As her competitive career drew to a close, she became increasingly involved in coaching. Although Heritage received several national and international appointments, her greatest commitment was to her SPU programs, and that commitment is evident in the Falcons’ achievements during her tenure.
Ten of her cross country teams have placed in the top ten at national meets, and Seattle Pacific won the conference women’s championships eight times in 13 years. The men’s team won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference title in 2004. In 1996, SPU was the West Region women’s champion. Twenty harriers have earned All America status, including two national champions. Heritage has been voted by her peers the conference coach of the year seven times. And that’s just in the fall.
In track & field, her middle-distance and distance runners helped form the foundation of the nationally prominent Falcon track team, which she serves as assistant coach. Under her tutelage, seven women have won AIAW and NCAA titles from 800m-10,000m. In all, SPU men and women runners have scored at nationals 38 times in the last 29 years.
Heritage has served as an assistant coach on staffs selected for various major competitions, including the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games and the 1987 and 1990 World Championships. She remains a frontrunner, having become the first female to be elected to the prestigious IAAF Cross Country and Road Race Committee in 1988. More recently, she has served as head coach of the U.S. Ekiden Cup contingent in Japan, the U.S. world championships cross country team, and the USA-Great Britain dual meet in 1993. In 1996 Heritage was the chief of mission for the U.S. cross country team at the world championships in South Africa. She is also the first female member of the Cross Country and Road Running Committee of the IAAF, the world’s governing body for the sport.
In 1990, the five-time world champion and two-time Olympian was inducted into USATF Hall of Fame for her success as an athlete. Heritage announced her intention to retire at the end of the 2008 season.