It’s rather difficult to find a Santa Claran who doesn’t know the name Julie L’Heureux. The native Santa Claran herself has been the head coach for cross country at Santa Clara High School since 1992. L’Heureux additionally took the reins of track and field back in 2004, having pulled double duty ever since.
The 1980 graduate of the old Buchser High School (on what is now the Santa Clara High campus) returned to her alma mater in the mid-80s as an assistant coach after graduating from USC in 1984. Next school year, 2024-25, will be L’Heureux’s 40th season coaching track.
“Chuck Kappen was my coach here when it was still Buchser, and when I said yes to coaching with him, I was thinking I would coach just four years to pay him back, but then that went out the door,” chuckled L’Heureux in a sit down with The Weekly.
So what has kept L’Heureux coming back year after year?
“The kids,” responded L’Heureux without hesitation. “You know you try to help out all the kids, but there are certain kids that you just know, like, I’ve told some of them already that I’m committed to graduating you. Not only have you seen their talent, you see that they care and want to work hard. And I do have some kids that didn’t have great talent, but worked hard and I stay for them too.”
“I have seen what happens to programs when they lose a head coach,” continued L’Heureux. “And then they just start turning over coaches and you hate to see a good program fall apart, so that keeps me here. My kids and my husband joke that I will die here.”
For now, L’Heureux is still running with the kids and hopefully won’t be haunting them for a long, long time. As it stands, she receives plenty of praise and compliments from both the kids and her fellow coaches.
“She’s really good at encouraging us; she’s always trying to push us, making sure we are giving it our all,” chimed junior cross country runner James Kepner. “She just wants us to do our best.”
“I had a sister go here who is seven or eight years older than me that did cross country all four years,” added Kepner when asked if he knew of L’Heureux’s reputation prior to starting high school. “So obviously, Julie was coaching here and I heard a lot of great things from my sister.”
“She brought me on as an assistant my first year teaching back in 2007,” noted Paul Fuller, who coaches the throwers for the track team. “I’ve coached with her since then, so what is that 16 years? She’s a staple in our league. She’s always the one making sure everything is running smoothly at meets.
“She’s just viewed in that light by everyone, as someone that is reliable, takes charge and makes sure everything is ready to go so that all the kids can consistently have good competition environments,” continued Fuller. “She keeps the sports of track and cross country going.”