Eric Peterson was named Director of the Tulane men's and women's cross-country and track and field programs on September 17, 2009. Peterson had spent the previous 16 seasons at UCLA as the head coach for cross country, and overseeing the distance program with the Bruins' track & field teams.
"I'm elated to announce the addition of Eric Peterson to lead our men's and women's cross country and track and field programs," Tulane athletics director Rick Dickson said. "Eric has a great knowledge of each sport, and the multitude of events in track & field. He had an impressive tenure in his 16 years at UCLA and has coached and developed elite athletes; as he was himself at the University of Oregon."
"Tulane University has one of the finest academic reputations in the United States. I believe that competition brings out the best in people," Peterson added. "Pursuing a degree from Tulane University and being challenged by the level of competition in Conference USA is a great environment for student-athletes to achieve greatness. I am committed to do all I can to help our program first grow to a Conference USA Championship level then make some noise at the national level."
In the last nine seasons, Peterson served as the head coach for UCLA men's cross country and coach of the track & field distance squads for the Bruins' men's and women's track teams. He served as the women's cross country head coach for the last 15 seasons, taking over after just one year as an assistant with the program.
Under Peterson, the distance running program at UCLA was a Pacific 10 Conference and national power. His men's team advanced to the NCAA championship as an at large in 2006 after the program's highest Pac 10 finish in a decade. The Bruins were back in the NCAA championship team competition in 2008 placing 26th in the nation, while three of his student-athletes from the men's team qualified for the NCAA as individuals in 2007.
In track and field, UCLA's men's teams sent three individuals from the distance program to the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships and four in the NCAA Indoor Championship with 10 student-athletes participating in the NCAA Regional meet. Peterson had six steeplechasers qualify for regionals, which was tied for No. 1 in the country for single event qualifiers. He also coached freshman Dylan Knight to a UCLA freshman class record in the steeplechase and a 10th-place finish at the World Junior Championships. In 2008, he coached athletes to four UCLA all-time top-10 marks and a UCLA record in the indoor 3000m for Austin Ramos.
Peterson contributed to three women's track National Championship squads, aiding the Bruins to the 2004 outdoor championship, and indoor championships in 2000 and 2001.
Under his tutelage, his student-athletes have racked up 40 All-American honors, including five multiple winners on the men's side: two for Austin Ramos in cross country and one in outdoor track. Ben Aragon, Martell Munguia and Jon Rankin earned honors on the 2005 NCAA Indoor runner-up distance medley relay team. Munguia also added individual honors in the 800m along with Erik Emilsson in the steeplechase. Marlon Patterson, Laef Barnes and Cory Primm earned indoor All-American honors in 2008, while Henry Hagenbuch earned outdoor honors in the steeplechase.
Emilsson, who set the Bruins' junior class record in the steeplechase, began his career at Tulane, but transferred to UCLA following Hurricane Katrina.
On the women's side, 10 women have earned All-American distinction, including six multiple honorees. Karon Hecox-Candaele, who won the 3000m in the 1994 NCAA Outdoor Championship, earned five All-American awards. Peterson also coached her to an eighth-place finish in the 1500m final at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2000. Lena Nilsson won three NCAA titles and tallied seven All-American finishes during her career at UCLA, while Ysanne Williams was a six-time All-American. Tiffany Burgess won an NCAA title on the winning NCAA Indoor distance medley relay team in 2002 and was a three-time All-American. Ashley Caldwell ended her career with five All-American accolades, while Beth Bartholomew was a two-time All-American.
He has also coached several Pac-10 champions including school record holders Ben Aragon (800m) and Jon Rankin (1500m) on the men's side, and four-time Pac 10 champions Karon Hecox-Candaele and Lena Nilsson, the two time Pac-10 Female Athlete of the Year.
Before his arrival at UCLA, Peterson was the graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach at Oregon for the 1992-93 season. He also spent two seasons as an assistant track and field and cross country coach at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego.
Peterson has trained and coached with some of the top distance coaches in the world, including Mike Manley (1972 U.S. Olympian in the steeplechase), former Oregon head coach Bill Dellinger (three-time Olympian in the 5000m), Luiz de' Olivera, who tutored Joaquim Cruz to the 1984 Olympic 800m gold medal and Larsen, who coached the U.S. men's distance corps at the 2004 Olympic Games.
As a distance runner at Oregon, Peterson was a member of 1989 Pac-10 Championship cross country team that was the NCAA Runner Up. An All-American in 1988, he was a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the 1500m (1988, 1992), running a personal best 1:49.78 in the 800m and 3:41.03 in the 1500m.
Peterson was the 1985 Oregon State high school 800m champion and earned All-America honors in the 1500m and mile at North Eugene High School in his native Eugene, Oregon.
"Over the past 16 years at UCLA I have worked with and learned from who I would consider to be some of the best coaches in our sport," he said. "I am as eager and enthusiastic to manage a staff and lead our program as I am to build a competitive team here at Tulane."
The Tulane cross country teams are off this weekend following back-to-back meets to open the 2009 campaign. The Green Wave women placed second on Saturday at the Mook 4 Invitational in Ruston, La., with the men's squad finishing sixth.