Running icon Doris Heritage retires as coach at SPU

Longtime Seattle Pacific University (SPU) cross-country coach Doris Heritage, a pioneer of the sport and the face of Falcons running for nearly 50 years, has announced her retirement at the end of this academic year.

Heritage concluded her 30th season as head cross-country coach in the fall, guiding the Falcon women to a second-place national finish at the NCAA championships. This was the highest NCAA placing in the program's history, as SPU sophomore Jessica Pixler won the individual title.

During Heritage's tenure she also served as a coach for the SPU track-and-field program. Her middle-distance and distance runners have helped form the foundation of the nationally prominent Falcon track team, for which she serves as assistant coach after having been head coach for six seasons in the early '80s.

"The joy of running has meant so much to me over the years," Heritage said. "It has been a pleasure to get to share this joy with the student athletes at Seattle Pacific and make a meaningful impact in their lives. It truly has been a special experience."

Among the world's premier distance runners during the decade of the '60s, Heritage first honed her skills as a member of the Falcon track club, the forerunner to today's women's varsity. Under the direction of head coach Ken Foreman, the then-Doris Brown set two United States records before graduating from SPU in 1964. Eventually she owned every national and world record from 440 yards up to the 3,000 yard race.

Heritage was named to the U.S. Olympic team in 1968 and 1972, taking fifth in the 800-meter in Mexico City. A last-minute injury prevented her from running the 1,500-meter in Munich. She won the silver medal (800m) at Pan American Games in 1967 and then again in 1971.

From 1967 to '71, Heritage won an unprecedented five consecutive world cross-country championships, and raced on nine U.S. world teams in all. During her prime she won 14 national titles and set a world-record in the 440,800 mile and 3,000 meter. Still running in front of the pack, she won the U.S. Masters cross-country title in 1989.

"Doris Heritage has had an extraordinary career as both an athlete and a coach," Seattle Pacific University President Philip Eaton said. "She broke onto the scene in the 1960s-this young woman from a small Christian college-and made a name for herself and for Seattle Pacific, setting records and collecting titles wherever she competed.

"She went on to serve as the cross-country coach at SPU for over 30 years, pushing countless young athletes to excel," Eaton continued. "We celebrate both her outstanding athletic achievements and her remarkable loyalty to Seattle Pacific. We celebrate as well the person she is. We are grateful for the life and contribution of Doris."

In 1999, Heritage became just the second female inducted to the U.S. Track Coaches Hall of Fame. In 1990, the five-time world champion and two-time Olympian was inducted into U.S. Track & Field Hall of Fame for her success in running.

Heritage recently was named the 2007 Great Northwest Athletic Conference and West Region Coach of the Year. She was honored as conference Coach of the Year nine different times, three in the GNAC and six when SPU was a member of the PacWest Conference.

SPU graduate Erika Daligcon ('98), who has served as an assistant coach for the past six years, has been named Heritage's successor as head coach of the cross-country program. Daligcon immediately assumes responsibility for recruiting as well as other daily operations.

Heritage will share an office with Daligcon until June, allowing these two friends-mentor and successor, as well-frequently to confer.

"I'm happy to leave the team in such good hands," Heritage said of Daligcon. "She has a heart for both the program and the institution."Daligcon has asked Heritage to stay on as an assistant coach, which Heritage has agreed to do for the 2008 season.

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