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Bill Taylor is in his sixth year as the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field Coach at Lipscomb University. In six years the program has seen a complete transformation in every aspect. It is one of the fastest rising programs in the South region, and is quickly moving up the ladder of national prominence.
Hired just one week before the 2007 cross country season began, Taylor hit the ground running by leading a women’s team that had lost its top three runners to tie a program best finish of 6th in the Atlantic Sun. The men’s team also posted a 6th place team finish, just one place short of their all-time best team finish.
In the six years since Taylor’s arrival, Lipscomb's cross country and track and field programs have jumped to the top of the Atlantic Sun. Since Taylor's arrival in 2007, Lipscomb has earned 104 All-A-Sun Conference honors and 21 Conference Champion honors.
The Women’s Cross Country team has won back-to-back Atlantic Sun Championships the past two years (2011, 2012). This past Cross Country season (2012), Lipscomb tied an ASUN conference record by putting 6 women on the ASUN first or second ASUN All-Conference teams. Taylor was also voted ASUN women’s XC Coach of the Year for 2011 and 2012.
In 2012 Dani Walker became the first Lipscomb woman to earn NCAA I All-South Region honors, missing a spot at the national championships by just three seconds.
Academically, the men’s and women’s programs continue be national leaders. Tessa Hoefle has been named ASUN XC Scholar-Athlete of the Year the past two years. This year she was joined on the seven person ASUN XC Scholar team by three teammates; Dani Walker, Kendra Lobley and Maggie Lawrence.
Seventy-two different men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track & field event records have been set in the last six years, several of which had stood for over 40 years. All men’s and women’s cross country records have been broken in the last four years.
Since 2009, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor track & field and men’s and women’s outdoor track & field have all posted their highest ever conference finishes and all six sports have earned their best point finishes.
In 2009, Kristin Ratzlaff became the second woman in Lipscomb history to qualify for the NCAA Regional (since disbanded and replaced with the NCAA Preliminary round) in women’s track and field. For the first time in school history, male competitors also qualified for the Regional, with Lipscomb sending five to Louisville: Steven Lindsey (high jump), and the 4x400m relay team (Michael Knox, Clint Carter, Andrew Jones and Chad Roberts). The Regional system in track was replaced in 2010 by the National Preliminary Round system.
In 2012, Dani Walker (5000m), Kendra Lobley (3000m steeplechase) and Tucker Peabody (200m) became the first Lipscomb athletes in school history to qualify for the NCAA I National Championships Preliminary Round. All three were also named NCAA I National All-Academic.
Three Atlantic Sun Conference records have been set in the past three years, by the Men’s Distance Medley relay in 2010, the Women’s Distance Medley relay in 2011 and Kendra Lobley broke the ASUN record in the 3000m Steeplechase in 2012.
Lobley was voted ASUN Outdoor Track & Field Freshman of the Year in 2012, the first Lipscomb Track athlete to earn that honor, after winning the ASUN 3000m Steeplechase with a Conference record time, then doubling back to win the 5000m ASUN title as well.
Tucker Peabody won 2012 ASUN Championships in the Indoor and Outdoor 200m, and added another championship with a leg of the winning Outdoor 4x400m Relay (with Kenny Smith, Bobby Bassett and Colin Dempster).
Dani Walker earned the program’s first ever A-Sun Freshman of the Year honors in 2010 in Cross Country and was joined by Alex Newby on the All-Freshman team, the first ever LU women to earn All-Freshman team honors. In 2011 Minna Fields and Maggie Lawrence earned All-Freshman team honors, and in 2012 Madi Talbert.
For the men, Jared Wingerter earned ASUN Freshman of the Year honors in 2012 for Cross Country, and was joined on the five-man ASUN All-Freshman team by Daniel Gardner and Fidel Leon.
In track & field, in addition to rewriting most of the school record books, Lipscomb has shown itself a power in the women’s steeplechase, with an athlete earning All-A-Sun honors in each of Taylor’s six years, including back-to-back conference champions in the event (Catherine Beals 2011, Kendra Lobley 2012). For the men, Ashton Fisher earned All-A-Sun honors in the steeplechase as well in 2011 and 2012.
Dani Walker and Tucker Peabody became the first ever Lipscomb athletes to qualify for the USA Junior National Championships, held in Eugene, Ore in 2011. Tucker qualified in the 100m and the 200m. Dani qualified in the 800m, 1500m, 3000m and 5000m. She competed in just the 5000m and off of four weeks of summer base training finished 12th in the nation. Kellie Foley and Minna Fields qualified in the 3000m and 5000m in 2012, though neither were able to compete.
As a full program, Taylor’s teams are arguably the best NCAA Division I program in the nation academically. Both the men and the women have earned USTFCCCA All-Academic honors all six years, with the men finishing as high as first (tied with Yale) and second (.03 behind Yale), and the women finishing as high as second in the nation. In 2010, the men’s track team finished second in the nation, while the women finished fifth in the nation. In 2012 the women’s track team was ranked 4th in the nation. Lipscomb was the only NCAA DI program in the nation in 2010 with both the men and the women in the top five.
At the conference level Lipscomb’s men’s and women’s cross country and track & field teams have been a leader every year academically. They have led the Lipscomb athletic department in GPA, number of 4.0 GPA’s, number of All-Conference Academic honors and percentage of All-Conference Academic honors.
In 2009-2010 they helped lead Lipscomb to the A-Sun All-Academic Championship trophy, as the best Academic Athletic Department in the Atlantic Sun. In five out of six years the men and women have led the A-Sun cross country and track & field programs in academic performance.
Individually, Mike Knox became the first ever Lipscomb Track & Field athlete to be named to the National Track & Field All-Academic Team in 2010, Carolyn Latham earned District IV CoSIDA All-Academic First team honors, and Ryan Chastain earned District IV CoSIDA All-Academic Second team honors. Ashley Lehman earned CoSIDA All-Academic Second team honors in 2012. Dani Walker, Kendra Lobley and Tucker Peabody were named to the National Track & Field All-Academic team in 2012.
Outside of the competitive arena and the classroom, Coach Taylor has built a unique culture that emphasizes team environment, total person development and service.
Team environment means that high character is emphasized in recruiting and in being a part of the program. The result has been one of the strongest team environments in the nation, where the athletes love to be around each other, motivate each other and take care of each other.
A Total Person Development philosophy of coaching emphasizes academic success, spiritual development and personal growth in addition to high athletic success. This means striving to be the best in the world athletically, while keeping athletics in perspective. It also means that Taylor and his staff believe that athletics are a tool for growth, and that their job is to help their athletes grow in every aspect of their lives.
As a service culture, the cross country and track and field teams are active in the community on a regular basis. About every four to six weeks community service projects are conducted. This has taken many forms, ranging from Habitat for Humanity builds, to Special Olympics help, to storm clean-up, to making sandwiches and handing them out to the homeless, to working with an inner-city youth organization and so many more.
The Lipscomb Cross Country and Track & Field teams have also done mission trips the past four years, and will continue to do a mission trip every year. In 2010 some of the team worked for a week in inner-city Los Angeles with a parachurch organization called the Dream Center, ministering and helping the people in need there. In 2011 much of the team went to Belize to serve. In the summer of 2012 Lipscomb XC and Track sent a mission team to Haiti, and the team will return to Haiti in December to serve again at the Cap Haitian Children’s Home.
“Lipscomb is the perfect place to build the type of program I desire to build. It’s an incredibly strong Christian university, at the NCAA Division I level, with the most unique culture you will find in DI. The people here are so nice and supportive. And we attract the most amazing student-athletes in the nation. It’s a special person that comes to Lipscomb to succeed and grow.
“Our goals are to build the best Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field program in the nation. As far as we’ve come, we are just getting started and the future will witness more amazing success and development than we’ve seen already. In fact, the next two years will see more success than the previous four years combined, and the two years after that will see more than the previous six years.
“We intend to qualify for the NCAA Division I National Championships in Cross Country, to move up the national rankings every year, and to get many athletes to Nationals in Track & Field. We also want to become a strong presence at the national and international levels, developing elite performers at the highest stage.
“We will continue to be one of the top NCAA DI program in the nation academically as well.”
Prior to Lipscomb Taylor coached 11 years at the collegiate level, five years at the high school level and two years privately coaching elite runners.
From 1994 to 2004 he created and guided the Northwest University (Kirkland, WA) Cross Country and Track programs to national prominence. In particular, the women's distance program at Northwest rose to an elite level.
His 2002 Women’s team won the NAIA National Cross Country Championship and his 2003 team finished second in the nation. From 2000 to 2003 (his final season at Northwest), his women finished in the top seven nationally every year and added two top ten national finishes in indoor track as well.
From 1999 to 2003 his women's cross country teams boasted a 98 percent winning percentage against all competition and an 84 percent winning percentage against NCAA Division I competition.
Along the way his women picked up four consecutive Cascade Conference Championships and two Regional Championships. His peers honored him with 17 Conference, Regional and National Coach of the Year honors.
He also had an incredible 100% 5K PR rate for every woman who joined the program during his ten years at Northwest. The average PR rate for all women over those ten years was one minute and forty-eight seconds. This type of improvement is rarely seen on such a scale at the collegiate level. It is being seen here at Lipscomb though, with distance runners routinely dropping more than two-minutes off their previous PR’s.
(PR rates at Lipscomb have been even higher during Taylor’s time. The average 5k PR rate is over 2-minutes at Lipscomb. Just a few examples of incredible improvement: Kendra Lobley posted a time of 16:41 for 5000m last season as a freshman, bettering her high school PR of 19:46. Dani walker ran a 5k PR of 16:38 last season as a sophomore, bettering her high school PR of 19:44. There are many other examples of women on the team now and previously who have dropped more than three minutes off their 5000m personal best times.)
In total, Taylor coached 52 Athletic All-Americans, 31 Academic All-Americans, 201 National Qualifiers and 53 Cascade Conference Champions at Northwest University.
Kristina Proticova won individual National Championships in the Indoor 3000m and the 3000m Steeplechase and set the Slovakian National Record for the steeplechase while at Northwest, and he guided Phil Olson to sub 15/sub 25 5k and 8k times and multiple All-American honors in cross country and track.
In the Spring of 2012, Taylor and his 2002 Northwest University NAIA Women’s Cross Country National Championship team were inducted into the Northwest University Athletics Hall of Fame.
In 2006-07, Taylor served as an assistant coach with the women's cross country and track programs at Belmont University, helping them regain the Atlantic-Sun Cross Country championship.
A native of the Seattle, Wash., area, Coach Taylor and his family moved to Nashville in 2006. Taylor has a Bachelor's degree from Belmont University and holds USATF Level I and II Coaching certification. He and his wife Tabetha have been married for 25 years. They have two daughters, Bella and Ellie. They reside in Franklin, Tenn.