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Oregon Track Coaching Legends
Release Date: 12/18/2003
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*Click on the camera icon above on the right side to see a photo gallery of pictures of former Duck Olympic coaches Bill Hayward (1904-47), Bill Bowerman (1949-72) and Bill Dellinger(1973-98).


The birth of track and field on the UO campus dates back to 1895, and the first 'Webfoot' men's coaches included Joseph W. Wetherbee (1895), William O' Trine (1896, 1898-1901), J.C. Higgins (1897), C.A. Redmond (1902) and William Ray (1903).

After that, the track and field programs were guided by four of the most famous coaches in the sport over the course of the next century.

The Three Bill's - Bill Hayward, Bill Bowerman and Bill Dellinger - were each U.S. Olympic coaches and the latter two guided UO to NCAA track and field titles.

Another coaching pioneer in the sport, Tom Heinonen, amassed an equally amazing career as the preminent mentor in UO women's track and field history that began in the 1970s.

Other coaches that have helped guide the most famous collegiate track and field program include men's head coaches John Warren (1948) and Martin Smith (men 1998-2005, women 2004-05) and women's track and field head coaches Lois Youngen (1972), Ron Brinkert (1973-74) and Bob Ritson (1975-76).

Current men's and women's director of track and field Vin Lananna accepted UO's head post in July 2005, and is another of the most successful head coaches in collegiate history. A current profile is available above in the COACHES dropdown menu. 



Bill Hayward (1904-1947)

The forefather of Oregon track and field and its famous track and field facility, Bill Hayward was appropriately known as the ‘Grand Old Man’ during his 44-year career as a Duck coach.

The Toronto native was born in Detroit, Mich., July 2, 1868, and known throughout both countries as an all-around star athlete comparable to the likes of Jim Thorpe. A member of the Ottawa Capitals world champion lacrosse team, he also was one of Canada’s fastest sprinters from 75 up to 600 yards. He was equally regarded as a premier national-class athlete in ice hockey, rowing, wrestling and boxing.

The colorful yet cultured sportsman began his coaching career in 1898 as a Princeton assistant coach, then made another assistant stop at California. He next served as the head track coach at Pacific University (1901) and Albany College (1903), with his Albany track team even beating the Webfoots. He took the Oregon head track job in 1904, and also served as athletic trainer and basketball coach.

He coached four track world record holders, six American record holders and nine Olympians, and assisted on U.S. Olympic teams from 1908-1932.

Among his pupils, Dan Kelly broke the world record in the 100 yards (9.6) in 1906; went on to set the 220-yard record (21.1); and took the silver medal in the broad jump in the 1908 Olympiad.

Bill Bowerman (1949-72)

Bill Bowerman was a man of many titles. Olympic head coach, Nike founder, army major, Oregon track and field head coach, inventor ... the list could go on and on. But the one recurring theme was his restless innovation and unchecked passion for sport.

Bowerman, born Feb. 19, 1911, began his coaching career as a football coach for one year at Franklin High School in Portland, then moved to Medford and coached track for nine years and football for seven years.

But the Duck football and track letterwinner made his biggest mark as a track coach as his ‘Track Men of Oregon’ won 24 NCAA individual titles (with wins in 15 of the 19 events contested) and four NCAA team crowns (1962-64-65-70), and posted 16 top-10 NCAA finishes in 24 years as head coach. His teams also boasted 33 Olympians, 38 conference champions and 64 All-Americans. At the dual level, the Ducks posted a 114-20 record and went undefeated in 10 seasons. At the Olympic level, he served as head coach of the U.S. team in 1972 and as an assistant in 1968.

Bowerman the inventor was equally renowned for his waffle-iron shoe soles still popular today, as well as his method of recycling old athletic shoes into surfacing for tracks. 

His love of coaching carried past his own athletes as he helped launch the U.S. running boom. After a 1962 trip to New Zealand he introduced the idea of jogging to the local masses, even assigning his Duck athletes as mentors and coaches to local citizens. His 1967 book Jogging sold more than a million copies.

Bowerman’s legacy as an outspoken leader was also forged off the track. He was a combat major of the 10th Mountain Ski Troops against the Germans in the Italian Alps in World War II (and earned the bronze star), then sparred in the ‘70s with the Rajneeshees in Eastern Oregon. He even ran for state representative, following the lead of his father Jay who served as interim governor in 1910.

In retirement, Bowerman stayed true to his roots. The Fossil, Ore., native resided in his Eugene home in the Coburg Hills, and stayed in the news with occasional advice how to keep the sport vibrant. When nominated for the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1981, he declined the honor stating that until Bill Hayward was elected, he didn’t deserve to be included.

Before passing away on Chrismas Eve, 1999, Bowerman had returned to Fossil, the eastern Oregon town his great grandfather had founded in 1867, to close the last chapter of a legacy that will never be matched.


Bill Dellinger (1973-98)

Another Oregon original, Bill Dellinger proved the perfect choice in name and experience to continue the storied Oregon legacy.

The Grants Pass, Ore., native (born 3/23/34) made his name initially as one of Oregon’s greatest distance runners. From 1953-56, he was a two-time NCAA winner, three-time All-American and three-time conference champion. After college, he balanced a stint in the Air Force with post-collegiate training. At the end of his running career, he had added two world indoor records, six American records and three Olympic appearances (including a bronze in the 5,000 in 1964).

Dellinger initiated his coaching career at Thurston High School, joined Lane Community College in 1967, then accepted the Oregon assistant coach position in 1968 and immediately became known as America’s finest distance coach.

No U.S. distance runner made a bigger impact than his first star, Steve Prefontaine, but the legacy didn’t stop there.  

Mentoring such greats as Alberto Salazar, Rudy Chapa, Matt Centrowitz and Bill McChesney Jr., his distance pupils broke 18 American records, made 17 Olympic appearances and won 12 NCAA individual track titles. In his 32 years as cross country head coach, the Ducks claimed four NCAA team titles, five runner-up honors and four third-place finishes, to go along with four individual titles and another runner-up finish.

As a team, the Ducks continued their reputation as one of the nation’s deepest and most balanced units. At home at Hayward Field in 1984, the Ducks added their fifth NCAA track title and tallied 113 points — the highest NCAA total ever. At the conference level, his squads claimed four team titles and nine runner-up finishes. Individually, 23 Oregon runners combined for 41 cross country All-America honors, and 58 track athletes accounted for 105 track and field honors.

Dellinger still lives in Eugene and has coached Olympic post-collegians Danny Lopez, Nick Rogers and Mary Slaney.


Tom Heinonen (1975-2003)

The A pioneer for three decades for the University of Oregon, NorPac and Pac-10 Conferences, former head coach Tom Heinonen helped guide the Duck women’s track and field team from its infancy into a full-fledged collegiate power in his 27 years as head coach.

He retired after the 2003 season as the then-dean of Pac-10 track and field mentors, and was honored in his career as a three-time NCAA Coach of the Year, and eight-time Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year. As a team, UO scored top-10 NCAA track and field finishes in seven of the meet’s first eight years, and won the NCAA title in 1985. At the conference level, Oregon won all four of the NorPac track and field team crowns from 1982-85, then finished top-two eight times in the first 10 years of the Pac-10’s existence, including league victories in 1991 and ‘92. During his tenure, Duck individuals stockpiled 15 NCAA/AIAW titles, 108 All-America honors and 55 Pac-10/NorPac Conference titles in track and field.

His mark on the collegiate cross country scene looms even more impressive. Only one other team bettered Oregon's 24 national trips in his 28 years at the helm, and Duck individuals qualified three of the other four years. Over that span, Heinonen piloted teams to NCAA wins in 1983 and 1987, to go along with three more second-place efforts among their amazing total of 18, top-10 national finishes.

Away from the collegiate oval, Heinonen served as head coach in the 1989 World Junior Cross Country Championships, 1995 USA-Great Britain dual meet, and 1983 Olympic Festival. Duck individuals were equally decorated away from the post-collegiate spectrum and claimed three American records, 17 Olympic appearances, 10 World Championships invites, 12 U.S. national track and field titles, 22 World Championships cross country invites, and five U.S. cross country crowns.

A trademark of his teams was the breadth of their success across the track with Pac-10 titles in 14 of the 21 events contested, national titles in eight different events, and All-America honors in 15 events.

In the dual-meet setting, his squad was undefeated in 12 seasons en route to a 124-21 all-time record. In the national dual rankings, the Ducks were tabbed top-five on 13 occasions, including first twice and second twice, and third six times.

As an athlete, Heinonen enjoyed an equally successful career as a six-time All-America distance runner at the University of Minnesota. During his post-collegiate career, he was a three-time World Cross Country Championships competitor, a two-time Olympic Trials Marathon veteran, and the 1969 AAU marathon champion.

Heinonen took over as the Ducks' fourth women's track and field head coach in the fall of 1976, and followed Bob Ritson, Ron Brinkert and Lois Youngen.

Even today, the Eugene resident still serves as the UO Running Club coach and was chosen as part of the December 2006 induction class for the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Association Hall of Fame. 


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