A native of Memphis, Tenn., Rita Jorgensen hasn’t missed a beat since graduating from White Station High School, where she won state titles in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters in 2007. She made an immediate impact last fall when she was selected as the cross country team’s Most Valuable Performer. This spring, she won three events in her first two outdoor track meets en route to posting the first NCAA regional qualifying mark of her career in her third meet.
On what she credits with her success as a freshman
Good training and people on my team pumping me up and being encouraging. I also attribute it to good high school training and the coaching I’ve received at Vanderbilt.
On what it meant to be named the team’s Most Valuable Performer in cross country as a freshman
Coming into college, I didn’t know how fast I would be on the team. It was a pretty neat honor.
On the biggest change from running in high school to college
The meets are a lot more competitive. There is just so much good competition in every meet. The high school meets were really easy and more laid back. Every meet that I get into in college is really competitive and intense.
On her pre-race routine
I like to write down my goal times on a piece of paper the night before the race. During the race, I’m less focused on the times and just focus on staying with the pack.
On her favorite event to run
I really like the 1,500. I just like running four laps because it just feels right.
It is fun. He has really good workouts for me. He knows how to push me to the right level without pushing me too far.
On why she chose Vanderbilt
It just felt right. It was close enough to home, and I saw that the program was really picking up. I could tell that Coach Keith was really dedicated, and it just felt like the place to be.
On how important it is to be a part of building the track and cross country programs
It is really important. That is one of the reasons why I really wanted to come here to help build it up. I can see really good things in the future for the program. The whole coaching staff has everything moving in the right direction.
On the other schools she looked at
I was looking at Arkansas, Duke and Wake Forest before deciding on Vanderbilt.
On her favorite part about Vanderbilt
I like the people I have met on the team, and I like the location of the college in Nashville. I also like the educational opportunities that Vanderbilt provides.
On her hobbies away from track
I really like to water ski and wakeboard. I’ve been doing both of those since I was really young.
On what she would like to do after college
I’d like to be a civil engineer and build skyscrapers. I’ve always found that to be fascinating.
On her summer plans
I really want to go to Nicaragua and do community service with the Manna Project.