Lindberg named to state hall of fame

Eric Lindberg was hesitant to even step foot on the track in 1961.

Afterall, he was at tiny Southwest Washington Pe Ell High School to coach football and basketball, not a five-athlete track and field team.

That was quick to change.

Not knowing the first thing about coaching runners or throwers, Lindberg accepted an offer to lead the Pe Ell squad.

There was no question track and field was different from what he was used to, but something about it hooked him right away. In particular, the individual effort and drive he witnessed from one of his athletes who worked to become a state champion.

“That’s how it all started and how I created a love and a passion for the sport,” Lindberg said.

Now, 45 years later, the long-time Oak Harbor High School track and field coach has come full circle. Last weekend, Lindberg was named as one of two 2006 inductees into the Washington State Track and Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

“It’s a very humbling honor,” Lindberg said. “It’s nice to know you’re recognized. The most important part is that it comes from your peers.”

Lindberg received the award at last weekend’s 2006 Washington State Track and Field Coaches Convention in Wenatchee. Several of his former athletes made the trip across the mountains to witness the event, including 1986 OHHS graduate and current Seattle resident Jimmy Miller.

“I would never have missed an opportunity to see my coach honored for his contribution to the school, state and broader track and field community,” Miller said.

Under Lindberg, Miller worked his way to a national ranking of fifth in the discus. He ended up finishing second in the state that year, but gives a heavy amount of credit to Lindberg for the success he had during his career.

“He got under the hood and did his own research,” Miller said. “He also had a great understanding of conditioning for all athletes and pushed me in the early part of the season to build the lower body endurance that stabilizes a thrower in the second half of practice.”

Lindberg’s coaching career in Oak Harbor spanned from 1962 up until just a couple of years ago. He started as a volunteer and assistant coach at the junior high level before taking over as head high school coach from 1968 to 1978. In those 10 years Oak Harbor had two state champions, finished as high as sixth in state as a team and sent numerous athletes to state meets.

After 1978 Lindberg returned sporadically over the years to help the Wildcats as an assistant coach.

“I’ve always kind of had my fingers in it,” Lindberg said. “I love to help young coaches.”

He said the athletic accomplishments in track and field were important, but it’s not the part that has stuck with him the most.

“It’s not just the athletic part, but the relationships you develop,” Lindberg said.

In fact, he still keeps in contact with a great deal of former athletes in and out of state.

One might think at 71 Lindberg is ready to hang it up, but that’s not the case. He recently accepted an offer to be co-head coach of the Coupeville High School track and field team this spring along with first-year track and field coach Randy King.

“I still have a desire to take some kids, fire them up and compete,” Lindberg said.

Lindberg wanted to make it clear that none of his success or his hall of fame induction would have come without the help of assistant coach Bernie Tipton and trainer Pete Hulswit.

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