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University of Jamestown hires gold medalist

Riley Salmon

University of Jamestown announced Monday the hiring of gold medal-winner Riley Salmon as the institution's first head men's volleyball coach.

A native of Amarillo, Texas, Salmon earned Olympic gold at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China, as a member of the U.S. men's national volleyball team. Salmon, who will be embarking on his first voyage as a collegiate head coach, visited the campus last week and said accepting the offer from UJ athletics direction Sean Johnson was easy.

"Sean offered me the job and I accepted on the spot," Salmon said. "It seemed like a perfect fit from the very first time we talked."

Salmon played as both an outside hitter and libero for Team USA from 2001 to 2012, also helping the team place fourth at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece. The newest Jimmie coach has extensive experience as a player both nationally and internationally, having competed 15 years at the professional level with European club teams and also serving two seasons with the Association of Volleyball Professionals, the longest-running professional beach volleyball tour in the U.S.

"It's not every day you have an Olympian cross your desk who wants to be one of your coaches," Johnson said. "I kind of compared it to when we hired Dean Stork for men's hockey.

"When we got Dean's resume, I was like, 'Wow, can we get that guy to come to the University of Jamestown?' I had the same feeling when I saw Riley's resume."

Like Stork, Salmon is being tasked with starting a new college program from the ground up. University of Jamestown men's volleyball will begin competing in the spring of 2020, and Salmon has already begun the recruiting process.

The coach said he'll be targeting potential Jimmies at this week's USA Volleyball High Performance Championships in Tulsa, Okla.

"You either come into something that's been set up and groomed for you, or the way I look at it is I'm coming in and will be able to do things the way I've been taught and the way I know will work," Salmon said. "I'll be recruiting the kids who I see will be a good fit for Jamestown and will fit into the system I'm bringing there."

It's a system centered around Olympic gold. University of Jamestown announced in June its plans to become the fourth Great Plains Athletic Conference institution to offer men's volleyball, which will become the NAIA's 26th championship sport this season after meeting the 40-team threshold.

"The U.S. Olympic team and the success that we had, everything is going to be driven right from that," Salmon said. "We have a small university, but we have fantastic facilities—one of the best facilities I've seen in the nation."

Salmon said he'll soon be making the move to Jamestown, while in the meantime his wife and two children, a 12-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son, will be staying in Texas.

"I'm sure there'll be some bumps along the way, but the staff there has been great to work with," Salmon said. "They've been extremely supportive and I'm excited to get started."

Johnson said he's confident Salmon will get University of Jamestown's newest sports program off on the right foot.

"He's not a guy who'd walk into a room with a gold medal around his neck," Johnson said. "He's very humble and very passionate about what he's doing. I think he fits well with who we are as an institution."

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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