Bill Taylor enters his ninth year as the head men’s and women’s cross country and track and field coach at Lipscomb University. After being hired one week before the cross country season began in 2007, the program has seen a complete transformation and is now one of the elite programs in the South region, quickly moving into national prominence.
Taylor’s women’s cross country teams have won four consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference Championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), while the men’s cross country team won the first Atlantic Sun Championship in school history in 2013 and repeated as A-Sun Champions this year. In 2012 and 2013, the women’s team tied the A-Sun record for most women earning All-A-Sun first or second All-Conference honors (six each year). In 2014 the women broke the A-Sun record with seven women earning All-A-Sun honors. The men also put seven on the All-Conference first or second team in 2013 and four more in 2014.
At the 2014 Championships Madi Talbert became the first A-Sun cross country individual champion in Lipscomb history, earning A-Sun Cross Country Runner of the Year honors and leading a 1-2-3 finish for the women (Paige Stoner finished second and Dani Walker finished third).
Paige Stoner earned women’s A-Sun Cross Country Freshman of the Year honors in 2014. Last year Lipscomb also had the men’s and women’s A-Sun Cross Country Freshman of the Year, with Juan Gonzalez earning that honor for the men and Sally Larson earning it for the women. Jared Wingerter earned men’s A-Sun Cross Country Freshman of the Year in 2012, and Dani Walker earned the honor in 2010.
As a result of the team’s performances at conference in 2014, Taylor was voted A-Sun Coach of the Year for the fourth consecutive time in women’s cross country, and the second time in men’s cross country. 2013 was the first time in Atlantic Sun Conference history that one coach was voted Coach of the Year for both men and women’s cross country in the same season.
At the NCAA I South Regional, the women finished an all-time program best fourth place, just behind Vanderbilt, Florida State and Alabama. The women have finished in the top eight for four consecutive seasons. Madi Talbert led the women with a 16 place All-South-Region performance in 2014.
Hopes are high for the 2015 season, as the women return nine of their top ten runners and add a terrific recruiting class of 11 freshmen and two transfers. The top four returners; Madi Talbert, Paige Stoner, Sally Larson and Barbara Lee Ball, have already run in the 16’s for 5000m (16:20, 16:26, 16:27, 16:48). The women will be in the mix for a National Championship qualifying spot.
The men posted their first ever top 10 finish (sixth) in 2013. While the men slipped a little in 2014, they should bounce back very strong in 2015. Led by four excellent returners in Juan Gonzalez, Christian Freeman, Daniel Gardner and Jared Wingerter, the men add 20 newcomers to solve depth issues that were a setback in 2014. The men should be in the mix for a top four finish at South Region.
In 2013 Juan Gonzalez became the first man in Lipscomb history and the second cross country runner in school history (Dani Walker 2012) to earn All-South-Region honors. In 2014 Daniel Gardner became the second man to earn All South Region honors with a 25 place finish.
Academically, the men’s and women’s programs continue be national leaders. The 2015 women’s track & field program led the entire nation at the NCAA Division I level academically, with a 3.74 cumulative team GPA. The men finished fifth in the nation. Both men and women have finished in the top-5 nationally many times in Taylor’s eight years at Lipscomb, with the women finishing second two times previously, and the men finishing first in the nation and second in the nation previously.
Individually, five Lipscomb track and field athletes earned National NCAA Division I Academic All-American honors in 2015. Madi Talbert, Paige Stoner, Sally Larson, and Karly Hibbard earned the honor for the women’s team. Wayne Newman earned the honor for the men.
Madi Talbert also was named an NCAA Division I Academic All American for the 2014 Cross Country season.
Dani Walker has been NCAA Division I National Academic All-American three times (cross country 2012, track 2012, 2013), and Peabody has earned NCAA Division I National Academic All-American honors twice (track 2012, 2013).
Sally Larson was named A-Sun Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year, picking up the mantle that Tessa Hoefle had carried. Tessa had been named A-Sun Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year the previous three years, the top A-Sun academic award in the sport, the only three years the award has existed. A Lipscomb woman has been voted the top Scholar-Athlete in the A-Sun every year of this award.
Tessa also earned A-Sun Outdoor Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2013, while Dani Walker took the same honor for indoor track and field in 2013.
Tessa Hoefle, who graduated in 2014, earned a pile of significant awards as she ended her Lipscomb Career. She was named Atlantic Sun Conference Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the whole conference, the highest academic honor in the A-Sun. She was also named CoSIDA Capital One National All-American Academic Honors, the first such honors in program history. Also historic, Tessa and Tucker Peabody earned the men’s and women’s Byers awards in 2014, the top student-athlete honor at Lipscomb University.
In track, 88 different men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field event records have been set in the last eight 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.
In cross country and track and field over the past eight years Lipscomb has had 55 A-Sun Conference Champion honors and 230 All-A-Sun honors.
Dani Walker was named A-Sun Most Outstanding Indoor Track Performer and A-Sun Indoor Track and Field MVP in 2013 after winning the A-Sun Mile, 3000m, 5000m and running a leg of the 4x400m relay. In 2014 Dani was again named Women’s A-Sun Indoor Track and Field MVP after winning the 800m, Mile and 3000m, and running legs of the Distance Medley and 4x400m relays.
Tucker Peabody was named A-Sun Most Outstanding Outdoor Track Performer in 2013 after winning the 200m and 4x400m Relay for the second consecutive year, and posting a second in the 100m, and a third in the 4x100m relay.
Madi Talbert earned the same honor in 2015 for the women, after winning the Atlantic Sun 3000m Steeplechase for the third consecutive year, and winning the A-Sun 5000m for the second year in a row.
Tucker also won the A-Sun Indoor 200m in 2014, his third consecutive conference championship in that event.
2015 saw a program record six athletes qualify for the NCAA Division I National Championship Preliminary Round. Madi Talbert qualified for the third consecutive year in the 3000m steeplechase, and qualified for her first time in the 5000m. Freshman Paige Stoner also qualified in both the 3000m steeplechase and the 5000m, while sophomore teammate Sally Larson qualified in the 5000m. Karly Hibbard earned a spot in the javelin. The men were represented by Gemikal Prude, earning his third consecutive trip to National Prelims, and freshman Wayne Newman in the 110m High Hurdles.
In 2014 Lipscomb qualified three athletes to the NCAA Division I National Championship Preliminary Round; Madi Talbert (3000m steeplechase), Gemikal Prude (high jump) and Colin Dempster (400m). In 2013 freshmen Madi Talbert (3000m steeplechase) and Gemikal Prude (high jump) earned their first trips to National Prelims. They were joined by two time qualifier Tucker Peabody, who earned National Prelim spots in the 100m and 200m. Peabody (200m), Walker (5000m) and Kendra Lobley became the first ever Lipscomb athletes in program history to qualify to the National Championship Prelims in 2012.
Talbert became the first track and field athlete in Lipscomb history to advance to the NCAA Division I National Finals, qualifying in the 3000m steeplechase in 2013, earning honorable mention All-American honors. Madi qualified to the NCAA Division I National Finals again in 2014, this time finishing 16 to earn Second Team NCAA Division I All-American Honors. Madi qualified for the NCAA Division I National Championship finals again in 2015 in the 3000m steeplechase with a stellar time of 9:50, earning All-American honors again, finishing 13th in the nation.
Madi’s time of 9:50 also made her the first women’s qualifier in Lipscomb history to the USATF Senior National Outdoor Track and Field Championships, though she didn’t compete so she could focus on her upcoming senior Cross Country season. Her time may qualify her for the 2016 US Olympic Trials. Qualification standards and time period for achieving marks should come out sometime this fall.
In 2014 Gemikal Prude became the first ever Lipscomb athlete to qualify for the NCAA Division I Indoor National Championships, finishing ninth in the nation to earn Second Team NCAA Division I All American Honors. Then Gemikal became the first men’s qualifier in Lipscomb history to earn a spot at the NCAA Division I Outdoor National Track and Field Championships, earning Honorable Mention All American honors. In 2015 Gemikal earned a return trip to Eugene, this time earning Second Team All American honors with a 12th place National Championship finish.
Kendra Lobley was voted 2012 A-Sun Outdoor Track Freshman of the Year after winning the A-Sun 3000m Steeplechase and 5000m run.
Lipscomb has shown itself as a power in the women’s steeplechase, with at least one athlete earning All-A-Sun honors in each of Taylor’s eight years, including the past five individual conference champions in the event (Catherine Beals 2011, Lobley 2012, Talbert 2013, 2014 and 2015). In total, Lipscomb has earned 10 All-A-Sun honors in the 3000m steeplechase since 2008, five have qualified for the NCAA Division I National Championship Preliminary Round and one has qualified for the NCAA Division I National Championship Finals three times.
Since 2009, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor track and field and men’s and women’s outdoor track and field have all posted their highest ever conference finishes and all six sports have earned their best point finishes.
Walker and 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. Walker 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. In 2013, Talbert qualified for USA Junior Nationals in the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and 3000m steeplechase. She competed in the 3000m Steeplechase, finishing third in the nation. Gardner, Grant Stromberg and Wingerter joined Talbert as USA Junior Nationals qualifiers in 2013, all three in the 5000m.
In 2015 Paige Stoner qualified for USATF Junior National Championships in the 1500m, 3000m, 3000m steeplechase and 5000m. She competed in the 3000m and the 5000m, earning fourth and fifth place national finishes. Karly Hibbard also qualified and competed for Lipscomb in the javelin.
Peabody became the first ever Lipscomb athlete to qualify for the USA Senior National Track and Field Championships, finishing 21 in the United States at 200m.
At the conference level Lipscomb’s men’s and women’s cross country and track and 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.
For three years, 2014-15, 2013-2014 and 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 seven out of eight years the men and women have led the A-Sun cross country and track and field programs in academic performance.
Individually, Mike Knox became the first ever Lipscomb track and field athlete to be named to the National Track and 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. Maggie Lawrence and Tessa Hoefle earned National CoSIDA Academic honors in 2013. Walker, Lobley and Peabody were named to the National Track and Field All-Academic team in 2012. Walker and Peabody earned National Academic All-American honors again in 2013. In 2014 Tessa Hoefle, Kaitlyn Llewellyn and Tucker Peabody earned CoSIDA All-District Academic honors, while Tessa Hoefle earned the first CoSIDA Capital One National All-American Academic honors in program history.
In 2014 Tessa Hoefle and Tucker Peabody were voted Lipscomb Byers Award winners. The Byers Award is the top athletic honor a student-athlete can receive from Lipscomb. It is based on academic success, athletic success, leadership, community service, spiritual development and character. Ryan Chastain also earned the Byers award in 2010.
2015 saw another Lipscomb track and field standout voted Lipscomb Byers Award winner, with April Terry earning the top Lipscomb Athletics honor.
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 the strongest team environment in the nation, where the athletes love to be around each other, motivate each other and take care of each other. By having a culture of high character and creating a team family, the Lipscomb athletes have more fun and achieve more in every aspect. The team environment is a large reason for the rapid success the program has achieved, as well as the gigantic personal record rates.
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. Every semester the teams organize and conduct at least two Community Service projects. 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 and field teams have also done six mission trips the past five 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 cross country and track sent a mission team to Haiti at the Cap Haitian Children’s Home. In the winter of 2012 the team returned to Haiti to serve. In 2013 Lipscomb track served in Jamaica. Finally, in 2014 Lipscomb cross country and track sent more than 20 to the Dominican Republic to serve with a parachurch missions organization there.
The team will return to the Dominican Republic in 2015, where they hope to build an ongoing long term relationship.
Another unique aspect of the Lipscomb cross country and track and field programs comes in the form of Fortune 500 level High Performance Team Building and Leadership Development training. Taylor’s wife Tabetha has worked more than 20 years for multi-million/billion dollar Fortune 500 level organizations as a Talent Development Executive and Leadership Coach, building high performance cultures. Her work with the programs gives them a unique skill set that increases the team’s success, while providing the Lipscomb athletes with real world skill development that will help them be even more successful in their lives after leaving Lipscomb. These unique skills add to the whole person development philosophy of the program.
“Lipscomb is the perfect place to build the type of program I desire to build" Taylor said. "It’s an incredibly strong Christian university, at the NCAA Division I level, with the most unique culture you will find in D-I. The people here are so nice and supportive. I am certain we have the nicest people in the nation at the NCAA Division I level. Best of all, we attract the most amazing student-athletes in the nation.
“We get the highest character kids with great personality. We get the kids that want to grow in every aspect of their lives, and see all the unique things Lipscomb and our program offer than no other school or team offers. I am proud that our athletes have an amazing experience and are better prepared for life after college.
“I also love that we can share our faith and actively grow in that area. We have athletes from all kinds of different backgrounds, and from all across the country. To bring in all these different people, with unique experiences, from different faith experiences, just adds to our total experience. We learn from each other and with each other. That alone is unique and incredible.
“The mission trips are especially impacting I don’t know of any other team in the nation that pursues missions work as a team. Serving on a mission trip is a life changing experience. It’s incredible. Serving on a mission trip with your team family, the men and women you live with, train with and compete for, takes it to an even higher level. As good as our team is athletically and academically, the team mission trips have been just as incredible and important to our program.
“Athletically people are amazed by how fast we have risen. It could seem unusual to see a team that has such academic success, serves in the community and internationally, and is also one of the top athletic programs in the nation. We just expect it. It’s part of our culture and our philosophy.
“Our goals are to build the best men’s and women’s cross country and track and field program in the nation. As far as we’ve come, we are just getting started and the future will witness more amazing athletic 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 will qualify for the NCAA Division I National Championships in cross country; we continue to move up the national rankings every year, and to get many athletes to Nationals in track and field. We also want to become a strong presence at the national and international levels, developing elite performers at the highest stage.
“We want to win NCAA Division I National Championships. I know it will happen and the team knows this 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% personal record rate at Northwest for 5000m. Every athlete that joined the program over the 10 years at Northwest earned a personal record, and the average personal record rate was just about 2-minutes. This type of improvement is rarely seen on such a scale at the collegiate level.
At Lipscomb this trend has continued, with average personal record rates for 5000m well over the 2-minute mark.
“People ask how we get so much improvement from our athletes. There are many reasons. Obviously we know what we are doing as coaches. Our training is sound and effective. I really think the biggest reason though is our focus on a high performance culture and high character. A lot of NCAA I programs have conflict and negative competition. We have just the opposite environment. Our athletes are happy, united, motivating and truly love each other. We have a family, and every single member of the team is a part of that. I just think when you know your teammates love you and you know they want you to succeed, it makes it so much easier to perform, have fun and make big improvements.”
In total at Northwest, 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.
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. When he has time, he enjoys reading, writing, hiking, outdoor sports, marksmanship, fitness, and relieving stress on a set of drums. In the past he served six years as a 19D Cavalry Scout with the Washington Army National Guard, and volunteered for 11 years with Snohomish County Search and Rescue.
Most of all, he enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife Tabetha have been married for 27 years. They have two daughters, Bella and Ellie and Golden Retriever named Wiley. They reside in Franklin, Tennessee.