NATCHITOCHES – Mike Heimerman, an outstanding thrower for the Northwestern State track and field program who developed into one of the nation's more successful throws coaches while guiding the Lady Demons to unprecedented accomplishments as head women's coach, is the new head track and field coach at his alma mater.
Heimerman takes over the helm of the Northwestern State program from venerable coach Leon Johnson, who announced his retirement last month after 31 remarkable seasons. Johnson was head men's coach upon his retirement and had served as head coach of both programs at different times during his career.
Heimerman's appointment, announced Thursday by NSU director of athletics Greg Burke, is subject to the approval of the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, which includes Northwestern.
A 1998 NSU graduate, Heimerman has been part of the track and field coaching staff since his competitive career ended. He had officially served as head women's coach for nearly exactly six years, while continuing to work with the throwers for the men's program as well.
“As a student-athlete, graduate assistant, assistant coach, and head women's coach, Mike has 18 years of experience with our department and specifically with the track and field program. I had a high degree of confidence in him based on what I've seen during a period that parallels my tenure as athletics director,” said Burke. “Still, when Coach Johnson stepped down, we went through a search process, the first head coaching search for the track and field program in 31 years.
“After vetting several candidates and then sitting down with Mike, I know he is best-equipped to take over. He has a good handle on the many good things going on within the program and at the same time, is determined to continue to elevate the program's status on all fronts -- competitive, citizenship, academic. I look forward to working with Mike and congratulate him on this well-deserved appointment,” said Burke.
Heimerman recently guided the 2011 Lady Demons to their highest-ever Southland Conference finish, second, and has personally coached 11 of NSU's last 16 NCAA All-American athletes, including 2011 NCAA women's discus champion Trecey Rew Hoover. The women's program has set new marks for high academic achievement under his leadership, highlighted by Rew, an Academic All-American and the USA Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's 2011 Field Events Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Along with Rew, some of the highly accomplished competitors Heimerman has helped develop at NSU include four-time All-American javelin thrower Cody Fillinich, 1999 USA Juniors javelin champion Latrell Frederick, a three-time All-American; and two other USA Juniors javelin champions, Dawn Comeaux and Randy Fauntleroy.
“Mike was a tremendous athlete and has carried his competitive spirit into coaching. He's been at my side for the past 16 years and has done a super job as an assistant coach, and a head coach,” said Johnson. “Mike took over the women's program and it's never been in better shape. He deserves this and he will be very, very good at it.”
Heimerman capped his competitive career with an eighth-place finish at the 1998 USA Outdoor Championships in the shot put. He won the shot at the 1996 Southland Conference Outdoors.