Men's and Women's Cross Country both posted better than a 3.00 GPA last fall.
Vanderbilt caps women's cross country season with NCAA Championships.
Vanderbilt took a run on the NCAA Championship course to prepare for tomorrow's race.
No. 24 Commodores making second consecutive trip to NCAA Championships.
Commodores secure automatic berth to NCAA Championships with second place finish at South Regional.
The women's cross country team brought a camera along on one of their runs.
Vanderbilt Head Track & Field and Cross Country Coach Steve Keith took his programs to new heights during his sixth season at his alma mater, highlighted by the women's cross country program achieving a series of firsts in 2011, including its first SEC Championship.
Keith has coached the Vanderbilt men's and women's cross country programs since 2006, while the past season marked his first as Head Track & Field and Cross Country Coach. The 1981 Vanderbilt graduate returned to West End with more than two decades of experience coaching top-flight athletes at three different institutions.
The most recent campaign opened with the women's cross country team taking the SEC title with five Commodores finishing in the top nine. Alexa Rogers (second), Liz Anderson (fourth) and Jordan White (seventh) captured First Team All-SEC honors, while Louise Hannallah (eighth) and Kristen Smith (ninth) earned spots on the second team. Vanderbilt also placed three runners on the All-Freshmen team, as Grace Orders, Rebecca Chandler and Amira Joseph each earned top-30 finishes.
The Commodores went on to finish second at the NCAA South Regional, earning the program's first-ever trip to the NCAA Championships. Vanderbilt placed sixth in the nation at the Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., with Rogers placing 39th and becoming the program's first All-American.
For his efforts in 2011, Keith was named both the Southeastern Conference Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year and the NCAA South Region Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year.
The track season saw Orders earn her second SEC All-Freshman honors of the year, this time in the indoor 3,000 meters. That was followed by an outdoor season that sent six Commodores to the NCAA East Preliminary Round. Kristen Findley, who placed fourth in the 1,500 meters at the SEC Outdoor Championships and set a school record in the event, missed a trip to the NCAA Championships by .16 seconds, placing 13th.
Kristen Smith (5,000 meters), Meagan Martin (pole vault), Morgan Toone (pole vault), Ellie Tidman (high jump) and Brionne Williams (high jump) also qualified for NCAA Preliminary Round competition.
All told, Commodore runners set school records in four indoor events (1000 meters, mile, 3000 meters and distance medley relay), followed by two more school records during the outdoor season (1500 meters and the 4x1500 relay). In addition, there were a combined 54 runs for personal records during the two 2012 track seasons (20 indoor/34 outdoor).
As has become the standard for Keith's teams, the performance in the classroom was just as impressive. Jordan White was named to the Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-District Team, while White, Liz Anderson, Louise Hannallah and Alexa Rogers were named to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic List.
In his first six seasons with the Commodores, both the men's and women's cross country programs have earned All-Academic honors (with distinction) with team grade-point averages of at least 3.4.
The 2010-11 track campaign saw middle distance standouts Jordan White, Alexa Rogers and Liz Anderson become NCAA qualifiers. White (4:25.58) and Rogers (4:26.54) both qualified in the 1,500 meters and freshman Liz Anderson ran the 4th best time in school history (16:29.67) in the 5,000 just narrowly missing a berth in the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
During spring 2011, senior Rita Jorgensen ran a school record 800 meter time of 2:05.54 in qualifying for the NCAA Preliminary Round. Jorgensen finished off her stellar career scoring both indoors (mile/3rd) and outdoors (800 meters/5th) at the SEC Championships.
The fall of 2010 was a record-breaking season for Keith and the Commodore cross country team. The women finished third in the SEC and third at the NCAA South Regional, while having White and Jorgensen gain All-SEC honors. Newcomer Anderson was also named to the All-SEC Freshman team.
The season was capped off with Jordan White becoming just the 2nd Vanderbilt individual to qualify for the NCAA Championships with her 10th place finish at the Region meet.
Under Keith, the Vanderbilt Track all-time lists continue to be rewritten with numerous top-10 performances from the 800 through the 10,000. Several new school standards have been established, including the indoor 3,000 meters, outdoor 800 meters and outdoor 10,000 meters, by Keith-conditioned standouts.
Nearly every meet produces at least a few personal bests for members of Keith's distance corps. Over their first year each of Keith's new student-athletes has seen a significant drop from their best high school times and they have continued to progress through their senior year which is a main focus and goal of the program. "Our coaching staff takes tremendous pride and pleasure in seeing our seniors finish their careers with personal bests. This is what we are all in it for."
As a Vanderbilt alum and cross country letter winner from 1977-81, Keith understands that success as a Commodore rides on maintaining the delicate balance of excellence on the track and in the classroom. Keith has the professional experience - including Division I tenures at Alabama, Texas-El Paso and Georgia Tech - to guide the Commodores into the future.
"I'm very familiar with the level of competition and caliber it takes to be at the top of the conference. If you can be an SEC title contender then you can be at a top 10 national level and that is our goal," Keith said. "Our recruiting has been geared to building a contending program and we have seen significant progress toward this goal."
Before arriving at Vanderbilt, Keith served five years as head women's cross country coach at the University of Alabama. Keith mentored three members of the Crimson Tide women's distance corps to All-SEC honors.
Prior to coaching in the SEC, Keith worked with distance runners at the University of Texas-El Paso. In the Texas border community, Keith directed one of the nation's leading distance teams. Coaching both men and women, Keith's runners at UTEP included a pair of NCAA national individual champions and 22 All-America recipients. His top UTEP pupils included Svetlana Badrankova, Jim Svenoy, Carlos Suarez and Bashar Ibrahim.
Badrankova was an elite half-miler, capturing the NCAA women's 800 meters in 2001. Badrankova remains one of the fastest collegiate runners ever at 800 meters, with a personal best of 2:00.9. Svenoy, a Norwegian, won the 1995 NCAA 3,000-meter steeplechase and was a two-time Olympic finalist in the event. Svenoy's winning NCAA effort of 8:21 in the steeplechase still ranks among the all-time Top 10 collegiate runners. Suarez and Ibrahim were All-American middle distance runners, both running sub-4:00 miles.
At Georgia Tech, Keith mentored four All-Americans, including 1,500-meter standout Alan Drosky. Besides Drosky, the other Georgia Tech All-American recipients were steeplechaser Eric Smith, 5,000-meter runner Karen Hoffman, and 800-meter runner Shellie O'Neal.
Keith started his collegiate coaching career at Emory University, serving as distance coach from 1983 to 1986. In his three years there, the men's team qualified for NCAA D-III Cross Country Nationals finishing 20th, 19th and 17th with two individual All-Americans.
Women's Cross Country Headlines