Men's Track Inks Erik Heinonen as First Signee of 2000-2001.

Nov. 16, 2000

EUGENE - The University of Oregon men's track and field squad announced its first signee of the 2000-2001 campaign as area distance runner Erik Heinonen announced his intent to join the Ducks next fall.

The South Eugene High School senior recently finished third (15:50) at the 4A state cross country finale two weekends ago, 21st as a junior (16:41), third as a sophomore (16:24), and 30th as a freshman (16:57) in his first high school race.

Presently, he looks forward to the Foot Locker West Regional qualifying meet at Mt. SAC in two weeks. Last season in the race's seeded section, he overcame a fall in the opening 200 meters to finish 10th. In past years, he finished 24th as a sophomore and sixth in the `97 freshman race. He also has finished second at the Oregon-Washington Nike Border Clash the past two years, the most recent coming last week, and 21st as a sophomore in the USA Cross Country Championships Jr. 8K in Tacoma (25:00).

'Since I was a freshman in high school I wanted to go to Oregon as long as I improved enough,' Heinonen said. 'Obviously, the facilities are unequaled in the country, and I'd be hard-pressed to find a (head) coach who has been as successful as Martin Smith. I feel comfortable with him- we both appreciate and expect hard work.'

On the track, Heinonen is a two-time, 4A state-meet participant. As a sophomore, he finished sixth in the 1,500 (PR 4:01.29) and third in the 3,000 (PR 8:32.61), while as a junior he placed 12th in the 1,500 (4:01.66) and third in the 3,000 (8:35.51). A two-time district champion in the 3,000 and once in the 1,500, he has shined at several of the nation's top meets including the 2000 U.S. Junior Championships (5,000, fourth, 15:15) and 1999 Golden West Invite (3,200, eighth, 9:15).

His best track times in distance races include 2:00.1 (800m-2000), 4:01.29 (1,500m-1999), 8:32.61 (3,000m-1999), 9:10.9 (3,200m-2000) and 14:35.8 (5,000m-2000).

Heinonen is also the son of Duck women's track and field head coach Tom and national track and field columnist Janet. Tom was an All-America distance runner for the University of Minnesota and a post-collegiate AAU marathon champion. Janet is also a marathon veteran and former sports information publicist for the University of Oregon.

'Choosing Oregon was all my decision,' Heinonen said, 'and my parents have been exceedingly careful not to be push me in any way. They made sure that I was doing it for the right reasons and that it was always fun. I've also been lucky to have a great set of coaches at South - John (Gillespie), Jeff (Hess), Rick (Mestler) and Jill (Mestler) who have incredible amounts of experience.'

Heinonen's announcement initiates the third distance class signed by Smith. The first featured the team's top two harriers this collegiate season - All-America sophomore Jason Hartmann and senior Michael Kasahun. Last year's group featured several that were nationally-ranked on the track, including freshmen Eric Logsdon, Noel Paulson, Chris Clancy and Aaron Emery.

'I liked the team,' Heinonen said. 'The guys don't have big egos, they're all blue collar, hard-working guys. I don't know how things will progress this spring, but there's a possibility that I could redshirt next fall. Maturation-wise, it may help in the transition and make sure I'm ready to do the training.'


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