NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After 15 seasons at the helm of the Vanderbilt cross country and track and field programs, head coach Steve Keith announced his retirement Sunday.
“I’m proud and honored to have been called ‘Coach’ at my alma mater these past 15 years and with the last 10 years as the director of the program,” said Keith. “It’s never easy saying goodbye, but I feel like the timing is good for me to take a step back from coaching and retire. I trust that I am leaving the program in a much stronger position than when I arrived which is really all you can ask for. My staff has been fantastic and all of our successes have come from a common objective focused on developing champions and leaders.
“As I mentioned to the team, I am excited to see all that this program will achieve in the coming years. My experiences as their coach have been rewarding and fulfilling, thanks in no small part to their commitment and dedication.”
Keith led Vanderbilt to unprecedented heights during his tenure. A three-time South Region Coach of the Year, he guided the Commodores to their first back-to-back top-15 showings in the USTFCCCA’s prestigious Program of the Year rankings, the school’s first SEC cross country title and Vanderbilt’s first appearance at the NCAA Cross Country championships—which has now become a regular occurrence.
“We appreciate Steve for his service to the cross country and track and field programs and to the athletics department and the university,” said Candice Lee, vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director. “Under his direction, our teams reached new heights and he should take great pride in the impact that he had. He operated with the utmost integrity, and never wavered in his commitment to our student-athletes. We wish him all the best in his next chapter.”
Keith earned his first regional and SEC Coach of the Year award in 2011 when he led the women’s cross country program to its first SEC title. Five Commodores finished in the top nine as Alexa Rogers (second), Liz Anderson (fourth) and Jordan White (seventh) captured All-SEC first team honors, while Louise Hannallah (eighth) and Kristen Smith (ninth) earned spots on the second team. Vanderbilt also placed three runners on the SEC All-Freshmen team. 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 event as Rogers finished 39th and became the program’s first All-American.
Keith was named South Region Coach of the Year in 2014 after the Commodores claimed their first region title in program history, and earned the award again after the Commodores repeated as South Region champions in 2015.
The Commodores earned a spot in the “Program of the Year” standings for the first time in school history at the end of the 2014-15 campaign, claiming a No. 15 national ranking. Vanderbilt then took it several steps further in 2015-16, moving up five spots and breaking into the top 10—the Commodores were the second highest-ranked SEC women’s team on the list, behind only No. 2 Arkansas.
The school record books are full of Keith’s athletes. He has overseen nearly all of the current indoor and outdoor track and field school record holders. His student-athletes have earned 14 track and field All-America honors and two cross country All-America honors in the past 10 years. The cross country awards were the first in program history.
Vanderbilt had a school-record three NCAA All-America first team honorees during the 2017 track and field season, including pole vaulter Sarah Bell, triple jumper Simone Charley and 800-meter runner Courtney Clayton, who set a school record with a seventh-place finish of 2:04.02 in the NCAA finale.
Keith’s teams have always excelled in the classroom. His Vanderbilt units have made the USTFCCCA All-Academic teams list every year since Keith became head coach. In that time, Vanderbilt has also produced five recipients of the prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
Keith was also instrumental in bringing the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships to Vanderbilt for the first time in school history in 2017. From the first stages of planning to host the event, all the way to the execution of the event, Keith was involved in every facet. The event featured 19 facility records, four world-leading performances, one American record and two collegiate records.