Eric Peterson enters his 16th year on staff at UCLA and ninth season as coach for the Bruin distance squads. Peterson has also served as the head cross country coach for the men the past nine seasons, as well as the women, for the last 15. Prior to his being named head coach, he served as an assistant to then Bruin cross country head coach Bob Larsen.
The distance squads have thrived under Peterson's direction as the men's cross country team has started to make noise on the conference, regional and national scene. In 2006, Peterson led the men's team to the NCAA Championships as an at-large team, and in 2007, saw the men post their highest team finish at the Pac-10 meet in 10 years (4th, the highest finish with Peterson as coach). Three of his athletes qualified and competed at the NCAA meet as individuals in 2007, and in 2008, the Bruin men returned to the National Championships as an at-large squad, tying for 26th as a team.
Last season, the distance runners had an amazing year, as three men competed at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, four competed at NCAA Indoor and 10 qualified for the NCAA Regional meet. Peterson had six steeplechasers qualify for regionals, which was tied for No. 1 in the country for single event qualifiers with UCLA's own Anthony Curran (pole vault). Peterson also coached freshman Dylan Knight to a freshman school record in the steeple and a spot on the World Junior Championship team. In all, he coached athletes to four UCLA all-time top-10 marks and a school record in the indoor 3000m for Austin Ramos.
In all, Peterson has guided his athletes to over 40 All-American honors. On the men's side, five Bruin men have earned multiple All-American honors. Austin Ramos tallied two 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 inidividual 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.
On the women's side, 10 women have earned All-American distinction, with six posting multiple honors. Karon Hecox-Candaele won the 1994 NCAA Outdoor 3000m crown and was a five-time All-American. He also coached her to an eighth-place finish in the 1500m final at the U.S.Olympic Trials in 2000. Beth Bartholomew was a two-time honoree. Lena Nilsson won three NCAA titles and tallied seven All-American finishes during her career. 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, a 2007 graduate, ended her career with five All-American accolades, while Melissa McBain, Valerie Flores, Jessica Marr and Allie Bohannon each earned one honor.
He has also coached several Pac-10 champions including Ben Aragon (800m) and Jon Rankin (1500m). Rankin was also the West Region 1500m champion in 2005 and became the 261st man in U.S. history to run a sub four-minute mile. Both Aragon and Rankin hold school records. Lena Nilsson won four Pac-10 titles during her career, while Ysanne Williams was a member of a Pac-10 champion 4x400m relay team. Nilsson was the only woman in Pac-10 history to double in the 800m and 1500m twice at the conference meet. She was also a two-time Pac-10 Female Athlete of the Year for her accomplishments.
Before coming to Westwood, Peterson served one season (1992-93) as Oregon's graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach and two years (1990-92) as 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.
A former University of Oregon distance runner, Peterson was a member of the Ducks' 1989 Pac-10 Championship cross country team that placed second at the NCAA Championship. He earned All-America honors in 1988 and was a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the 1500m (1988, 1992). His personal best times were 1:49.78 (800m) and 3:41.03 (1500m).
As a prepster at North Eugene (OR) High School, Peterson was the 1985 Oregon State high school 800m champion and earned prep All-America honors in the 1500m and mile.