Rebekah Smeltzer joined the Vanderbilt staff on July 29, 2016 as an assistant coach for the Commodores’ cross country and distance running teams.
During the 2018-19 season Smeltzer continued success in the distance competitions. She also debuted a lethal stable of freshmen for the Commodores.
Under her watch, the school’s 4×1,500-meter relay record was broken, freshmen Grace Jensen and Haley Walker made NCAA Preliminary debuts and Walker competed in the U20 Pan-American Championships for her home country of Canada.
Smeltzer hit the ground running as an assistant on the Commodores staff during the 2016 season, as she played an instrumental role in sophomore Sara Tsai’s qualification to the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Tsai finished sixth at the NCAA South Regional with a time of 20:16.20 and earned an at-large bid to the Championship meet. Tsai would go on to finish 57th overall in the Finals with a time of 20:34.40, which narrowly missed the All-American threshold by just 10 seconds. Smeltzer also helped lead the team to a third place finish at the NCAA South Regionals, which fell just one spot shy of team qualification to the NCAA Championships.
Smeltzer, who was a standinout at Michigan State during her college career, joins the Commodores after serving as the assistant coach for Western Michigan’s cross country and track and field teams over the last two years. While at Western Michigan, she helped develop an individual qualifier for the NCAA Cross Country championships in each of her seasons while helping Maria McDaniel to the top of the podium as the Mid-American Conference outdoor track 5K champion in 2015.
“We’re very excited to add Bekah to our TF/XC staff and the Vanderbilt athletics family. I know Bekah is thrilled and eager to start working with our talented young group of distance runners,” Vanderbilt cross country/track and field head coach Steve Keith said.
“She’s a gifted, young coach with a solid educational and athletic background. Scoring in the Big Ten and running in the NCAA XC Nationals are great experiences to draw from along with her graduate degree in Kinesiology (emphasis in coaching). These are all pluses. Most importantly, we feel that Bekah can come in right away and develop strong, immediate connection with the team as we work toward our SEC and NCAA goals.”
Prior to her experience at Western Michigan, Smeltzer was the graduate assistant at her alma mater Michigan State. As a coach with the Spartans, she helped the team to back-to-back Big Ten cross country titles in 2012 and 2013. On the track, she coached individual Big Ten champions in the 3K, 5K and steeplechase while also helping Leah O’Connor to the individual indoor championship in the mile in 2014.
“I am extremely excited and honored to be joining a cross country and track and field program as competitive and respected as Vanderbilt,” Smeltzer says. “Vanderbilt is in a league all its own with its nationally recognized academic programs, amazing facilities in a vibrant city and close-knit community. It also offers plenty of support and resources for student athletes to succeed during and after graduation. Coach Keith and the rest of the coaching staff have been extremely welcoming and I look forward to working alongside and learning from them as we continue to coach our athletes up to the highest competitive level.”
As a runner, Smeltzer enjoyed a solid career running on the Spartans’ Big Ten cross country champion teams in 2010 and 2011. A native of Monroe, Mich. she ran in the NCAA Cross Country championships four times with the Spartans and was named All-Region three times. On the track, she placed sixth in the 10K in 2012 and qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field championships.
“I am looking forward to building relationships with the current team members and starting to connect with the future Commodores,” Smeltzer says. “It is very important for me to know my team so that I can recruit women who will enhance the current team culture. I believe that team culture is a very important aspect of any successful team. I want to do everything I can to protect the amazing culture Vanderbilt has created and continues to build.”