Clear 37° Good Evening
Clear 37° Good Evening

Vin Lananna, Oregon coach, credits Long Island roots

Oregon track and cross country coach Vin Lananna

Oregon track and cross country coach Vin Lananna is introduced to the media at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Lananna replaced Martin Smith, who left the program to become become head coach at Oklahoma. (July 13, 2005) Photo Credit: AP

EUGENE, Ore. -- As co-chairman of the USA Olympic trials organizing committee, former Long Islander Vin Lananna stands at the top of the track and field realm.

Lananna, the University of Oregon track and field coach who is running the trials -- his nation's most important track and field event in the place called "Tracktown USA" -- has traveled marathon paths of achievement since his days as a self-confessed middle-of-the-pack middle distance runner at C.W. Post, now known as LIU Post.

Lananna, 59, grew up in Garden City Park and attended Brooklyn's Nazareth High School before graduating from New Hyde Park.

"My best mile was 4:14 something, around 1:55 for 800 meters," the six-time NCAA cross country coach of the year remembers. "I think my best time at Van Cortlandt Park [and its historic 5-mile cross country course] was 25:47. But then again, I could be wrong. I'm going to make a disclaimer right now. You've got to remember that was nearly 40 years ago.

"I like to believe I am a much better coach and administrator than I was a runner," said Lananna, who also is Oregon's associate athletic director. "My experiences at C.W. Post provided me the opportunity to work with two of the finest people, men who have impacted my life tremendously, and they're Roy Chernock and Allen Dawson."

Chernock went on to coaching assignments at Princeton and William & Mary and is now retired in Florida; Dawson died in 2002 after a shot put accident at Manhasset High School, where he was a volunteer coach.

"Both people, both of them great coaches, were so influential in shaping my life, teaching me to be a hard worker, and everything else," Lananna said. "Roy certainly taught me to fight for what I believed to be right; Allen was a great coach, and also tremendously modest and humble. Those were great lessons. I often think about all that.

"I was an unheralded runner. My main claim to fame as a runner was that somehow I was elected captain of our [Post] cross country team."

Before Oregon, Lananna coached at Dartmouth from 1980-92, Stanford (1992-2003) and Oberlin (2003-05).

Under Lananna's leadership, Oregon has climbed to all the familiar heights in track and cross country.

He keeps dreaming bigger, better things for Oregon track.

Examples: building a major-league indoor track facility, bringing the World Outdoor Championships to Eugene. And surely more.

All told, over the years, Lananna's athletes -- at Dartmouth, Stanford and Oregon -- have claimed more than 40 conference and NCAA team titles, produced more than 35 NCAA gold medalists, and been members of six Olympic teams. And those numbers are subject to constant upward revision.

A number of his Ducks -- led by Ashton Eaton, newly minted world decathlon record-holder -- have already punched their tickets to the London Olympic Games at the trials.

Lananna said he is proud to be host to the nation's top track athletes.

"It's a great opportunity for the world's greatest team to show their abilities; they have shown their ability and shown the reason why we are a top team."

New York Sports