Reece Vega has been with the NDSU program since 2020.
Vega comes to NDSU from the University of Mary, where he was named the 2019 and 2020 NSIC Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year, as well as claiming Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year honors from the USTFCCCA in 2018.
“I am extremely excited to come back to NDSU,” said Vega. “The opportunity to coach for my alma mater and to be part of the championship tradition is beyond words. Coach Larson and Coach Keller have been amazing role models and mentors during my life, and I am very grateful for this opportunity.”
At the University of Mary, Vega coached 21 NCAA Division II All-Americans and 14 NSIC conference champions, directing the sprints, hurdles, middle distance and relay events for the Marauders.
“We are really excited to welcome Reece back to the Bison family,” Keller said. “Reece has done a tremendous job developing himself as a collegiate coach. His years of coaching experience and success will bring great value to our program, and we’re thrilled to have him and Cassie in the Bison family.”
Prior to spending the previous three seasons at Mary, Vega was the head track & field and cross country coach at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y., (2016-17) and the head coach at NAIA Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa (2013-16). In his time at Graceland, he had 14 NAIA All-Americans and 40 national qualifiers.
In all, Vega comes to NDSU with 13 years of collegiate track & field coaching experience.
Vega was a three-time NCAA Division II All-American as a track athlete for the Bison from 2002-07, and a member of the Bison team that placed third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2004. Vega ran on NDSU’s school-record 4x400m relay teams – both indoor and outdoor – and held the indoor 600m record until 2018. He still ranks sixth in NDSU indoor history in the 400m dash and seventh outdoors.
Q&A with Reece Vega, Sprints and Hurdles Coach
Q: Has it always been a dream of yours to come back to NDSU?
A: Being an alumni from here, I obviously always wanted to come back. But in the coaching world, you never know if that’s a possibility. There are very few job openings. Is this a dream job? Yes. Did I ever think it’d be a possibility, not really. Because in my mind, Don Larson would have to retire or leave and I thought he would be here forever. I never thought that would happen so I never thought it would be possible.
Q: Did you know that you wanted to coach while you were competing?
A: I always knew I wanted to coach, but I never knew the possibility of college coaching. I talked to both Larson and Stevie Keller and kind of asked them how it worked and they helped me get my first coaching job at Minot State, but I never thought this was possible.
Q: There’s a lot of technique that goes into sprinting, but there’s also an element of sheer athleticism that comes into play. Were you always a student of running technique or is that something you picked up post-competition?
A: For me, I picked up more post-running. I think I started learning a little bit when I was here. When I left, one thing that Stevie always told me was, ‘if you want to be a good coach, go to go to small schools where you have to coach a lot of events.’ And so that’s why I kind of went to Minot State. And then, when I did my coaching carousel, I tried to look for the same sort of environment. When you have to develop athletes across a whole genre of different events, it can be a little more difficult.
Q: Do you have any sort of exercise science or kinesiology degree?
A: I got a master’s in business and I helped open up a running store in Minot. And then I realized how much I love coaching and I just felt like I was affecting more lives as a coach than I was with profits and losses and that type of stuff. That’s why I decided to go into the coaching route.
Q: Who from your areas do you see taking a big step forward this year?
A: Definitely, Kendra Kelley. She has just developed so much and grown so much as a person and it’s amazing. When she was pregnant, I remember reaching out and sending her a letter and her mom a letter and just saying, ‘Hey, whatever happens, I’m always with you.’ I’ve had athletes have children before and it’s been tough. But to see how much she’s changed as not just an athlete, but as a person is crazy. I always talk about having a why beyond just wanting to PR, a driving force for a bigger reason. Her why is so hard to understand because she wants to do it f for women that have gone through this. She wants to do it for a lot of other external reasons that you don’t see.
Q: Are her times going to get even better? They are already pretty impressive.
A: I was talking to her after she did a workout that I have never seen anyone do before and I told her, ‘I don’t know what to expect you to run because I can’t comprehend what you are doing right now.’ What she is doing in training is crazy.
Other people, I see making improvements include Brock Johnsen and Logan Mathieu. They are sophomores now but they both scored last year as freshman. Both of them kind of came out of nowhere and it’s very tough to score as a freshman in this league.