Grier Gatlin, a 1991 Weed High School graduate has been the head cross country and track and field coach at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., since 2011.
Gatlin has had an impressive list of accomplishments at SOU. This includes leading the Raider men and women to a combined NAIA cross country championship in 2018.

Grier Gatlin has parlayed his passion for running into a successful coaching career on the collegiate level.

Gatlin, a 1991 Weed High School graduate has been the head cross country and track and field coach at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., since 2011.

Gatlin has had an impressive list of accomplishments at SOU. This includes leading the Raider men and women to a combined NAIA cross country championship in 2018. Gatlin has been named the Cascade Conference Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year seven times and the CCC Men's Track and Field Coach of the Year five times – all in championship efforts.

At Weed High School, Grier had an outstanding career as a runner, including earning berths in the CIF Cross Country State Championships.

He first went to College of the Redwoods in Eureka, before moving on to SOU and competing in XC and track. Grier is a 1996 graduate of SOU. He currently lives in Medford with his wife and 2-year-old son.

Grier said he fell in love with SOU and the Ashland area with its top-notch running trails and scenic beauty.

“I had a great experience at SOU when I was a student. They haven’t been able to get rid of me,” he jokingly said..”I love it here.”

Grier is not the only Gatlin to have had success at SOU. His grandfather,  Thaine “Tex” Gatlin, is a member of the SOU athletic HOF. A 1950 grad, he was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball, and baseball. He was a member of the school’s undefeated 1946 football squad.

Originally, Gatlin was the head cross country coach at SOU from 1999 to 2005. During his first go-round, he was twice named men's Cascade Conference and NAIA Region I Coach of the Year. In 2004,  his 2004 SOU men's cross country team competed at the NAIA national meet for the first time in 15 years

At the time, sports were not a focal point at the school and it was not a full-time position, so Gatlin had to do other jobs like delivering pizza to make ends meet.

Grier left coaching for a few years but decided he missed it too much and coached for a year at Pacific University in Forest Grove. Ore., before becoming an assistant running coach at Oregon Tech, before returning to SOU.

He said a big reason for the XC and track and field program at SOU  doing well was a shift in supporting sports by the administration and athletic department.

He said this shift took place shortly before he returned to the university and was a key reason why he came back. Gatlin said the school now understands the vital importance of making sure coaches are compensated accordingly and have the resources needed to succeed.

“It’s nice that I don’t have to deliver pizzas at night anymore,” he said. “It's great as a coach to know you are supported and to have the opportunity to  be able to grow the program here.”

Gatlin said he has many fond memories of growing up in Siskiyou County and being a Weed High School grad.

Grier is proud of his roots and joked that the athletes he coaches probably are a bit tired of him telling them he graduated from Weed High School.

His path to taking running seriously and developing a passion for it was instilled by his coach at WHS, Robert “Bob “Linebarger, who was a longtime coach and teacher at the school.  Grier said that Linebarger pushed him to be his best and was smart in understanding how training and developing a running strategy aid in development.

“He was a great man, but he really knew how to push me, and knew how to get under my skin,” Gatlin said. ”He was the master of that and helped me so much. He was such an influential influence on my life,”

Grier recalled it was unique that in his senior year of running XC at WHS that he was the only member of the team,

Currently, Gatlin has a few athletes with Siskiyou County ties. Garret Bryan,  a Mount Shasta High grad, who also competed at College of the Siskiyous in Weed is a junior pole vaulter.

 Mount Shasta High grad Eli Chapman, who also competed at COS,  was on the SOU  track team as a sprinter, with his final year on the squad being in 2019 as a redshirt senior.  

Yreka High grad Isaac Fernandez is a sophomore XC and distance runner on the track squad. And, YHS senior Alisha McFall recently signed with SOU to compete in track in the 100-meter dash and the 4x100 meter relays.

In the athletic department, the Associate Athletic Director is Bobby Heiken, a 1993 Mount Shasta High graduate, who earned his degree at SOU.

For Gatlin, it’s been great to develop and work closely with the athletes in both the XC and track program. He said it usually takes a few years for them to get in the physical and mental shape needed to reach their full potential. He believes that the junior and senior years in college, especially for runners, are normally when they hit their stride.

For example, he believes that Fernandez is poised to have a breakout year in both XC and track next season as a junior.

While SOU was able to complete the indoor track and field season this school year, the outdoor season was cut short this spring due to the  COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was rough to see the season end like this,” Gatlin said. ”I felt really bad for our athletes, especially our seniors after all the hard work they all put into preparing for this season.”

He said he still keeps in touch with his team online, and is helping them with their training regimens and to be ready for next season.

Gatlin said when he was at SOU, the running program struggled, but he always believed SOU have a great program. It means a lot to him that he was given the opportunity to do his part and have the XC and track and field programs achieve success.

With the track and field team, he is proud that they are doing well in both running and well as in the other events.

Grier said that SOU now has a well respected XC and track and field program that can compete on the national level, gain good recruits, and have been able to consistently contend for Cascade Colligate Conference and National titles.

In track and field, Gatlin has overseen 59 men’s All-America performances – the most of any coach in SOU history – with four individual national titles. The Raider women have produced 24 All-America showing. The women also earned an NAIA title in four consecutive seasons starting in 2014 (pole vault, 400-meter hurdles, 10K, 5K) after going the previous 19 years without one.  In his time as a coach, SOU has also won 49 individual event conference titles on the men’s side and 34 on the women’s side.

Gatlin also helped get SOU to begin competing during the indoor track and field season starting in  2012. SOU has had success indoors, including the men’s distance medley relay team winning two straight national championships.

Siskiyou County Athletes Revisited is a new series profiling former athletes from Siskiyou County high schools and College of the Siskiyous, and catching up with them to see what they have been up to.
If you know of someone who would make a good profile, email sports editor Bill Choy at bchoy@siskiyoudaily.com. Please submit a way to reach the profile candidate, such as an email or phone number.