Rich Hiegel returned to Our Lady of Good Counsel in 2017 as head coach of the boys and girls cross country teams. His wide and varied background includes leadership training and coaching an Olympic gold medalist.
“This is a dream job. I absolutely love it,” Hiegel says. “Good Counsel is a very special place to me.”
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Hiegel (rhymes with “eagle”) has expanded team rosters by recruiting several new runners. The girls have risen to a No. 2 ranking by md.milestat.com in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.
Leah Stephens is the No. 1-ranked sophomore in Maryland and No. 4 distance runner. She set the 5,000-meter school record in March 2021 in Mechanicsville, Va., at the Pole Green Spring Championships. She and Isabella Sauro also competed in the 2020 RunningLane Cross Country National Championships in Huntsville, Ala.
(All rankings as of April 2021.)
Hiegel, who also serves as an assistant coach for the indoor and outdoor track and field teams, works hard on developing his athletes’ mental approach. He considers things like focus, concentration and visualization to be important keys to success.
“Running is a very mental sport,” he says. “If you have the determination to be successful and the dedication to prepare, you can overcome physical limitations and do very well.”
Hiegel came to Good Counsel after serving as an assistant men’s and women’s track and field coach at Bridgewater (Va.) College in 2016 and ’17. Working primarily with the throwers, he helped the women win indoor and outdoor Old Dominion Athletic Conference championships both years. Katelyn Senger placed fourth in the discus at the 2017 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships to earn All-American honors.
Hiegel became interested in coaching track to train his son, Jamie, who overcame a medical condition to star at Bridgewater. Jamie became an All-American by placing fifth in the 10,000 meters at the 2019 NCAA outdoor championships.
From 1979 to 1981, Hiegel taught leadership training at Valley Mill Kayak School in Darnestown, Md. Joe Jacobi is among the more notable athletes he coached. Jacobi won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1992 in whitewater slalom doubles canoe.
Hiegel lettered in swimming, track and field and football during his three years (1971-74) at Good Counsel. Competing in sprints, jumps and mid-distance events in outdoor track as a junior, he received the team’s Coaches Award. He had to move because of his father’s illness and graduated in 1975 from Bishop Walsh High School in Cumberland, Md. He participated in track and football.
From there he went to NAIA national track and field power Frostburg (Md.) State University, where he competed in sprints, jumps and one decathlon. After his sophomore season, he left the team for family reasons. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in sports and recreation management in 1979.
Hiegel spent most of his career working in outdoor recreation for such retail companies as REI and Bass Pro Shops. From 2011 to 2016, he was president and owner of athletic eyewear company Blueye USA.
Hiegel, an accomplished hang glider, has earned Level 1 coaching certification from the U.S. Track and Field Association.
Hiegel was born in Tokyo and grew up in Kensington, Md., and Williamsburg, Va. He and his wife, Leath, live in Potomac, Md. In addition to Jamie, the couple has a daughter, Colleen.