Season recap: shattered records

Dec. 14, 2010

media_icon_photogallery.gif End of Season Banquet Photo Gallery

In the fifth season of head coach Steve Keith’s tenure at Vanderbilt, he saw many records fall for the cross country team. While the men’s program continues to develop, the women’s team flourished this year, finishing a program-best third at the SEC Championships as well as at the NCAA South Regional. Also, for the first time in 13 years, the Commodores had a representative at the NCAA Championship meet.

“At the beginning of the season we set goals of top three at the SEC meet as well as at the regional meet, and potentially an NCAA berth,” said head coach Steve Keith. “We almost got all of our goals. It’s kind of hard to flat out plan to run better than any team at Vanderbilt has ever run, but to the teams credit, they were really consistent and very steady throughout the season.”

Beginning with a third consecutive championship at the VU-Belmont Opener, and wrapping up the season with a third place finish at the NCAA South Regional, the women’s team kept increasing the intensity from one meet to the next. Out of six races that the Commodores competed in this season, they finished in the top three in five, with a first place finish also at the Commodore Classic. Vanderbilt placed second out of 25 teams at the Louisville Invitational, just one point behind first-place Grand Valley State.

While the women’s team narrowly missed out on being the first Vanderbilt team to compete at the NCAA National Championship meet, Jordan White became the first individual to race at the meet since Pamela Johnson finished 134th in 1997. Racing against some of the fastest competition in the nation, White clocked a time of 21:24.3, good for 112th out of 253 competitors.

At the end of season banquet last Wednesday, the athletes were honored for their accomplishments during the season. Alan Ash was recognized as the Newcomer of the Year for the men’s team, while Liz Anderson received the award from the women’s team.

“Alan finished second or third on the team all year,” noted Keith. “Liz is very talented and although we didn’t have as consistent of a fall as we wanted, she still contributed quite a bit. That speaks to what we might be able to see from her in the future.”

Chris Baker and Alexa Rogers were selected as the Most Valuable Runners of the season. Baker was the top Vanderbilt runner in his final three races of the season and Rogers finished every race as the second or third Vanderbilt finisher. A third MVP award was given to Jordan White, as she became the first Commodore in 13 years to compete at the NCAA Championship.

“You really gauge each season with how you do at the end of the year, and Chris was the top runner at Louisville, the SEC Championships and at regionals,” said Keith. “Alexa contributes in a lot of ways. She was always second or third on the team and really going for it. She’s a real leader on our team.

“Jordan was rock solid this season,” commented Keith. “We wanted to acknowledge Jordan a someone who is really leading and setting the trend for this team. She is a fierce, relentless competitor.”

In addition to the team being honored for the season, Coach Keith wanted to make sure that an integral part of the teams training and success was recognized.

“Thinking back to the things that helped us move up throughout the season, we also wanted to recognize our spinning bikes in the locker room,” Keith added. “We are a very aerobic, endurance oriented sport, and even during our off days and cross training days, we need to have that in there.”

With just one senior on the roster this year, the men’s team looks to improve and build upon its strengths going into the off-season. The women’s team will graduate five members of the team, but two of the top three performers from this season will return for 2011.

“Our underclassmen from last year stepped up this season,” Keith commented. “Our freshman and sophomores will step up next year, and with some solid recruiting, we won’t miss a beat.”