Tom Heinonen won three NCAA team championships at the University of Oregon – two in cross country and one in outdoor track & field – during his 27 years as women’s head coach. Heinonen’s athletes made 17 Olympic appearances and set three American records.
A six-time All American at the University of Minnesota, Heinonen joined the Oregon coaching staff in 1975. He served as an assistant while attending graduate school and then became the women’s head cross country and track & field coach the following year. He was promoted to full-time status in 1977.
Instrumental in the development of women’s athletics at Oregon, Heinonen helped break the gender barrier in 1977. He fought to make the Oregon Twilight Meet co-ed, and after much resistance, he was successful. Heinonen continued to be an advocate of women’s sports throughout his tenure at Oregon, helping to inspire and lead 134 All Americans, ten Academic All Americans, and 14 individual national title winners. His portfolio of athletes includes Oregon standouts Kelly Blair, Annette (Hand) Peters, Lisa Martin, and Liz Wilson.
Heinonen compiled some amazing numbers at Oregon – three national championships, two National Coach of the Year awards, eight Pac-10 Coach of the Year awards, and a 124-21 record in dual meets. His athletes made 17 Olympic appearances and set three American records.
Following his retirement in 2003, Heinonen volunteered as coach of the University of Oregon’s running club. He has guided Club athletes who have gone on to join the NCAA team at Oregon as he molded the Club into a group that has beaten NCAA Division I teams in cross country team competition.