Assistant Coach, Recruiting Coordinator
Since joining the Vanderbilt staff in July of 2007, Rhonda Riley has helped guide Vanderbilt into the national spotlight while serving as the assistant coach for the men’s and women’s cross country teams and assisting with the distance runners during track season. Riley also coordinates much of the recruiting efforts for the programs.
Riley, who came to Nashville after serving two years at Arizona State and one year at Oregon State, has helped turn the Vanderbilt women’s cross country team into a consistent national contender. She has helped guide the team to four straight appearances in the NCAA Championships, beginning with the team’s first-ever berth in 2011.
In the fall of 2014, she helped steer the Vanderbilt women’s XC team to a benchmark season that included the program’s first-ever NCAA South Region Championship and a second-place finish at the SEC Championships.
Thanks in large part to Riley’s tireless efforts, Vanderbilt climbed as high as No. 12 in the USTFCCCA poll after capturing the South Region title by defeating two-time defending region champion Florida State by one point. Vanderbilt completed the season with a 28th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
Riley helped lead the Vanderbilt XC women to a series of strong showings in 2014, including early-season victories at the Belmont Opener and the Commodores Classic, followed by an eighth-place finish at the Roy Griak Invitational. The team then gained national attention with a terrific performance at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, where the Commodores tied for ninth and finished in front of 10 teams that were ranked ahead of them in the USTFCCCA poll.
Vanderbilt then earned a second-place finish at the SEC Championships, which represented the second-highest finish in the program’s history behind only the 2011 SEC championship team.
During the 2014-15 track season, Riley played a key role in helping Sara Barron (1500) and Rebecca Chandler (Steeplechase) qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Regionals in their respective events. Riley also helped five Commodore distance runners — Carmen Carlos, Katherine Delaney, Vanessa Valentine, Chandler and Barron — score points for Vanderbilt by finishing among the top-8 at the SEC Outdoor Championships.
In 2013, Riley helped guide the cross country team to a second-place finish at NCAA Regionals to earn its berth in the NCAA Championships, where the Commodores finished No. 27. Riley also played an instrumental role in guiding the Commodores to a record-setting track season, which included having nine representatives — who qualified in a school-record seven events — to the NCAA East Preliminary.
In 2012, Riley helped mentor Hannah Jumper and Kristen Findley to All-SEC honors in cross country for the Commodores, who returned to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year. Jumper finished seventh at the SEC Championships to capture the conference’s Freshman of the Year award.
The 2013 track season saw seven middle-distance/distance runners qualify for the NCAA East Preliminary Round as part of a Vanderbilt-record 11 participants in the meet. Findley, Sara Barron, Lily Williams and Hannah Jumper ran in the 1,500 meters, while Liz Anderson, Grace Orders and Allie Scalf qualified in the 10,000 meters. All seven are Riley signees.
She was instrumental in securing a series of firsts in 2011, including an SEC Championship, a trip to the NCAA Championships and an All-American. The Commodore cross country team won the 2011 SEC title by placing five runners in the top nine at the Championships. The race also produced three First Team All-SEC runners (Alexa Rogers, Liz Anderson and Jordan White) along with two Second Team selections (Kristen Smith and Louise Hannallah).
Vanderbilt went on to place second at the NCAA South Regional and sixth at the NCAA Championships. Rogers earned a 39th placed finish at the national meet to become the program’s first All-American.
The 2012 track season saw Riley help mentor freshman Grace Orders to SEC All-Freshman honors in the indoor 3,000 meters after the rookie placed third in the event at the SEC Indoor Championships. The outdoor distance runners were led by Smith qualifying for the NCAA East Preliminary Round in the 5,000 meters.
Riley was instrumental in steering most of the runners to the program, serving as recruiting coordinator. She helped sign the class that included Maryland Gatorade Runner of the Year Hannallah, Rogers and White.
She followed that class up by helping to sign Kristen Findley and Allie Scalf. Findley was an NCAA Preliminary Round qualifier in the 1,500 meters in 2011 and missed a trip to the NCAA Championships by .16 seconds. The next year’s class included Anderson, Megan Yohe and Kara Slavoski.
Riley has now mentored several all-conference honorees during her tenure at Vanderbilt. Previous honorees included All-SEC performers Rita Jorgensen and Kristabel Doebel-Hickok.
In 2010, the women’s team continued to build on their prior successes and exceeded expectations, finishing third in the SEC and placing third in the NCAA South Regional. White reached the NCAA Championships as an individual and four Commodores qualified for the preliminary round of the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 1,500 meters.
The 2009 season saw the Commodore women finish sixth at the SEC Championship, which was the highest finish ever in the 27 year history of the program, and fifth at the NCAA South Regional. White and Scalf were both named to the All-SEC freshman team after placing 22nd and 30th, respectively, at the conference meet.
In the 2008 cross country season, Doebel-Hickok garnered All-SEC Freshman honors during cross country last season after placing 22nd overall with a personal best effort in the 6K at the SEC Championships. Jorgensen posted an All-Regional qualifying effort, finishing 14th overall among the 156 runners at the NCAA South Regional.
In Riley’s first season, Jorgensen received acknowledgement for her outstanding success as a freshman, taking home the Female Newcomer of the Year award at the Vanderbilt Black and Gold Banquet and the cross country Most Valuable Performer award. In Jorgensen’s sophomore year, she dominated the early season, registering individual victories at the Belmont-VU Opener and Commodore Classic. In the same year, Val Kazmer earned Academic All-America honors.
Prior to going to Arizona State, Riley spent 2004 with the reinstated Oregon State program that was resurrected after a 16-year absence. Under mentor Kelly Sullivan, Riley learned the ins-and-outs of collegiate coaching, including administrative duties and working with student-athletes in the classroom. Before her time at Oregon State, the Portland, Ore., native served as a cross country and track and field volunteer coach at Corvallis (Ore.) High School.
Riley has completed six marathons during her time as a student and a coach, highlighted by being the ninth female finisher in the 2003 Portland Marathon. Riley also competed in the prestigious Boston Marathon in 2007. Riley completed her undergraduate work at Oregon State in 2004, majoring in early childhood development. She received her Master’s degree in higher education while at Arizona State.