Twenty-five years ago, when Pete Julian was a teenager running up and down the hills of Ashland, he pushed himself not because he had grand aspirations of winning Olympic gold medals or setting records in faraway places.
Twenty-five years ago, when Pete Julian was a teenager running up and down the hills of Ashland, he pushed himself not because he had grand aspirations of winning Olympic gold medals or setting records in faraway places. He ran, he says, because it was fun, and it was fun because his dad, famed Ashland High distance running coach Bob Julian, believed in and emphasized the joy of running.
Eventually, Pete rode the Julian pastime to a Division I breakthrough, a running career that lasted 10 years, the head coaching job at Washington State and, two weeks ago, a spot in the University of Portland Hall of Fame.
Joining a four-member HOF class that included former World Cup soccer star Tiffeny Milbrett, Julian was inducted in a ceremony June 22 at the campus, honored for a spectacular four-year run at Portland that included four All-America honors, multiple Pilots' records and the school's first berth in the cross country national championships. Julian also led the Pilots to their first NCAA cross country championships team appearance (1993), earned the school's first All-America certificates in track and set school records in the 5,000- and 3,000-meter runs.
"I was pleasantly surprised to hear from them," Julian, 41, said of finding out that he would be a part of Portland's 2012 HOF class. "It felt good because I know that if you get inducted into the Hall of Fame, that means you did some good stuff while you were there."
Coming back to the place he lived for four highly successful years proved to be a pleasant trip down memory lane for Julian, who led Ashland High to the Class 4A state cross country team title as a Grizzly senior in 1988 by placing eighth overall. Family and friends, former teammates and coaches returned to the UP campus to honor the man who wound up turning his passion into his career, running for the U.S. World Cross Country team in 1997 and 1998 and winning the bronze medal in the 1999 Pan American Games.
"Truthfully, I hadn't been back to campus really in 15 to 20 years," he said. "I'm always in and out of Portland of course, but actually being on campus for the first time in a decade and a half was kind of awesome."
Julian said the ceremony itself was a humbling experience.
"I really didn't know what to make of it, but when I got presented with it I was like, 'Man, this is really awesome,'" he said. "I did (get emotional). It wasn't like one of those ESPN moments, but it's kind of hard not to because it really makes you reflect because literally you're being thrown back into that environment where you probably grow more than at any other time in your life. Those are probably the most impactful days of your life, so you get thrown back in there and you have other people reflecting on you with pictures, and you're like, 'Wow, that was me.'"
In many ways, that still is him.
After graduating from the University of Portland with a degree in communications management in 1994, Julian spent more than a decade racing professionally in track and road races as a member of Team Adidas before beginning his coaching career. In 2005 he took over as director of Tempo Sports, the official distance center of USA Track and Field in Boulder, Colo., and stayed there for three years before landing a job as an assistant coach for the Nike Oregon Project. There, Julian helped Olympic hopefuls prepare for the trials.
Later, Julian was hired as the head men's and women's cross country coach and track and field coach at Metropolitan State College in Denver, where he led the Roadrunners to top-20 finishes in the men's indoor, outdoor and cross country NCAA Division II national championships before being hired by Washington State in 2009.
Julian was quickly promoted from assistant cross country and track coach, becoming the Cougars' head cross country coach in 2010.
The former Grizzly, who placed third in the 3,000 at the 1989 Class 4A state championships, said he fell in love with distance running at a young age thanks to his dad. Pete Julian was hardly the only Ashland High runner inspired by Bob Julian. Justin Loftus and Ian Solof, both of whom ran on that 1988 state championship, have parlayed their experience at Ashland into highly successful coaching careers — Loftus has turned Crater High into a state powerhouse, and Solof is the head women's cross country coach at Portland. After 30 years of coaching, Bob Julian eventually passed the torch at AHS to his oldest son, Bob Julian Jr., 44, who guided the girls cross country team to the 2006 state championship.
"He always made running fun," Pete Julian said of his dad, who was an assistant cross country coach at Southern Oregon University last year. "He made us fans of the sport and fans of being fit and that's why I still run every day. I really enjoy running."
It's an attitude that has turned into a philosophy.
"First and foremost, I strive to make sure my athletes have a smile on their faces," he added. "I've built a culture here [at Washington State] that's the same kind of culture that my dad built at Ashland High School, where guys and girls are excited about coming to practice every day."