09:31 AM

Celts Hire Coach to Lead Inaugural Track and Field Teams

The University of St. Thomas will launch its men’s and women’s varsity track and field teams in Spring of 2021, and has hired Eric Heins as the program’s first head coach.

Heins comes to UST with almost two decades of NCAA Division I coaching experience; he spent his last seven seasons coaching as the Director of Track & Field and Cross Country varsity programs at Northern Arizona University.

“We are thrilled to welcome Coach Eric Heins to the Celts athletic family,” Smith said. “His success and experience as a head track coach at the collegiate level, combined with his ability to connect with student-athletes made him a perfect fit for us. Eric is a terrific Track Coach and an even better person.”

At Northern Arizona, Heins guided the Lumberjack men’s cross country team to the NCAA national championship in 2016. For his efforts he was named the NCAA’s Division I Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year.

“It’s really exciting for me to be a part of the St. Thomas community, with the direction the University is going and with the growth of the athletic department,” Heins said. “This is an opportunity that suits me and my family well.”

Heins was named the Big Sky Conference’s men’s Coach of the Year in both the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons in each of his last five seasons as a head coach. He also swept the women’s indoor and outdoor Coach of the Year awards in 2014, and was named the women’s Outdoor Track & Field Coach of the Year again in 2016.

His résumé includes having coached 64 individual conference champions, 14 All-Americans, two national champions, and one Olympian.

Heins stepped down from coaching in December, 2016, when he moved with his wife and son to the Greater Houston area. Since then, Heins had served as a senior admissions officer for Northern Arizona for the area.

“I have been away from coaching for two and a half years,” Heins said. “We moved here for my wife’s position at Space Center Houston, and this hire gives us both the ability to do what we’re passionate about and to raise our son here.”

Heins came to Northern Arizona in 2007 and served as the head cross country coach and as an assistant track and field coach for two years. He also served as an assistant track coach at TCU and at Southeast Missouri State.

His own running career includes time as a cross country and track and field athlete at the University of Cincinnati, where he graduated in 1999. He earned his Master of Science Degree in Kinesiology in 2001 from Indiana University, where he also spent one season as a varsity track and field athlete for the Hoosiers.

In 2004, Heins won the 2004 St. Louis Marathon, and competed for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Marathon trials in 2008.

“I really want to thank the administration and [UST President] Dr. Richard Ludwick for the direction he has set for the athletic department,” Heins said. “I also want to thank Coach Smith for showing me what UST is all about, and for allowing me to become a part of the UST Celts family.”