Oregon track and field head coach Robert Johnson bolstered his coaching staff on Monday, July 23, with the hiring of Helen Lehman-Winters, the head track and field and cross country coach at the University of San Francisco for the last 15 seasons.
Lehman-Winters, an eight-time WCC cross country coach of the year who led the USF lady Dons to a runner-up finish at the 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championships, will join the Ducks as an associate head coach for cross country and track and field. She will help lead the distance and cross country programs for the Men and Women of Oregon.
“Helen is an incredible addition to our coaching staff, and we can’t wait for her to get started,” said Johnson. “She is a seasoned, smart, talented and proven coach, and a relentless recruiter. She values the opportunity and responsibility to provide student-athletes with the tools and experiences that prepare them not only to be elite athletes, but also for life after college. I am excited and confident in her ability to take our distance program to new and exciting heights.”
“I am incredibly honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the rich tradition of track and field at the University of Oregon,” Lehman-Winters said, “and I am grateful for the confidence and faith that Robert Johnson and the administration have in me to take on this role. I can't wait to get to work, meet the student-athletes, start recruiting and begin the process of contributing to a championship program.”
The 2017 USTFCCCA West Region and West Coast Conference women’s cross country coach of the year, Lehman-Winters guided the San Francisco women to the most successful season in program history last fall, highlighted by a WCC team title, an individual conference championship for Charlotte Taylor and the best national team finish in program history. Taylor, the USTFCCCA West Region and WCC women’s runner of the year, placed third at the national meet to join teammates Weronika Pyzik (fifth) and Isabelle Brauer (15th) as USTFCCCA all-Americans.
The 2017 conference title, headlined by a 1-2-3 finish for Taylor, Pyzik and Brauer, was the sixth for the lady Dons under Lehman-Winters, who led USF to five straight WCC championships from 2009 to 2013. After running to second at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, Lehman-Winters and the Dons carried that momentum into the 2018 outdoor season, where Taylor shined again with a fifth-place NCAA finish in the 10,000 meters and an 11th-place showing in the 5,000. Pyzik also earned NCAA all-America honors, placing 10th in the 10,000.
San Francisco used a terrific 2016 cross country season as a stepping stone to its historic 2017 campaign, with the women’s team earning its fourth NCAA appearance and finishing a then-program-best sixth at the national meet. The previous best finish was 18th in 2013. Taylor made history under Lehman-Winters’ guidance during the 2017 outdoor season, winning the NCAA title in the 10,000 meters to become the first female national champion in school history.
In total, Lehman-Winters has coached student-athletes to 52 all-WCC honors and 14 USTFCCCA all-America awards, including six in 2017-18.
“I have enjoyed my 15 years at the University of San Francisco and I leave an incredible team and staff,” Lehman-Winters said, “but I am thrilled to begin a new journey at Oregon and uphold the exceptional legacy of distance running. Eugene is a special community and I am so excited to bring my family here and become immersed in the TrackTownUSA experience.”
Taylor, an England native, finished her collegiate career as a five-time all-American. She is one of many international athletes to thrive on the collegiate stage under Lehman-Winters, who has proven to be an extremely effective international recruiter. Brauer and Pyzik were also international recruits who came overseas to run for Lehman-Winters at USF, and both were big contributors to the lady Dons’ recent breakout seasons. “She knows what she’s doing,” Brauer told USF Magazine for a story on Lehman-Winters and the rise of the USF program. Brauer also said her time under Lehman-Winters made her “much stronger aerobically and mentally.”
In addition to reaching new heights in competition, the San Francisco programs thrived in the classroom under Lehman-Winters’ leadership. In 2017, seven members of the cross country teams earned WCC all-academic honors, and the women’s team had the third-highest GPA (3.82) in the country after leading the nation each of the previous two seasons and three times since 2014. Four women earned USTFCCCA academic all-America recognition in 2017.
Prior to her 15-year tenure at the helm at USF, Lehman-Winters spent three seasons as a volunteer coach for UCLA after 15 terrific seasons at the high school level. Lehman-Winters built dominant teams as the head coach of cross country and track programs at El Cerrito High School (1985-89) and Carondelet High School in Concord (1989-2000). At the prep level, Lehman-Winters guided her cross country teams to nine California State meet cross country berths, eight North Coast Section titles and 12 league titles.
On the track, Lehman-Winters' squads enjoyed even greater success, posting an unprecedented 109-1 league dual meet record and winning five North Coast Section titles. Lehman-Winters coached 23 distance runners to the California State meet, nine of which earned top-four finishes. In 1996, she mentored Kristen Gordon to the Footlocker National Championship title.
Lehman-Winters competed in cross country and track at UC Santa Barbara before graduating from University of California, Berkeley in 1987. She earned her master's degree in sport psychology from John F. Kennedy University in 1997. She and her husband, John, have three children, Miles, Mathias and Milana.