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Bill Taylor is in his eighth year as the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track & 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 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.
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 ASUN Champions this year. In 2012 and 2013, the women’s team tied the ASUN record for most women earning All-ASUN first or second All-Conference honors (6 each year). In 2014 the women broke the ASUN record with seven women earning All-ASUN 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 ASUN XC individual champion in Lipscomb history, earning ASUN XC 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 ASUN Freshman of the Year honors. Last year Lipscomb also had the men’s and women’s ASUN 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 ASUN FOY in 2012, and Dani Walker earned the honor in 2010.
As a result of the teams performances at conference in 2014, Taylor was voted ASUN Coach of the Year for the fourth consecutive time in Women’s Cross Country, and the second time in Men’s Cross Country. In 2013 it 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. The women have finished in the top-8 for four consecutive seasons. The men posted their first ever top-10 finish (6th) 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 25th place finish, while Madi Talbert earned All South Region honors with a 16th place finish.
Academically, the men’s and women’s programs continue be national leaders. Sally Larson was named ASUN XC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, picking up the mantle that Tess Hoefle had carried. Tessa had been named ASUN XC Scholar-Athlete of the Year the previous three years, the top ASUN academic award in the sport, the only three years the award has existed. A Lipscomb women has been voted the top Scholar-Athlete in the ASUN every year of this award.
Tessa also earned ASUN Outdoor Track & Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2013, while Dani Walker took the same honor for Indoor Track & 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 ASUN. 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 & field event records have been set in the last seven 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 & Field over the past seven years Lipscomb has had 47 ASUN Conference champion honors and 188 All-ASUN honors.
Walker was named ASUN Most Outstanding Indoor Track Performer and ASUN Indoor Track & Field MVP in 2013 after winning the ASUN Mile, 3000m, 5000m and running a leg of the 4x400m relay. In 2014 Dani was again named Women’s ASUN Indoor Track & Field MVP after winning the 800m, Mile and 3000m, and running legs of the Distance Medley and 4x400m relays.
Tucker Peabody was named ASUN 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.
Tucker also won the ASUN Indoor 200m in 2014, his third consecutive conference championship in that event.
For the third consecutive year, Lipscomb qualified three athletes to the NCAA I National Championship Preliminary Round. Peabody (200m), Walker (5000m) and Kendra Lobley became the first ever Lipscomb athletes to qualify in 2012, while Peabody (100m, 200m) qualified again, Gemikal Prude (HJ) and Madi Talbert (3000m steeplechase) represented Lipscomb in 2013. In 2014 Gemikal Prude (HJ), Colin Dempster (400m) and Madi Talbert (3000m steeplechase) qualified.
Talbert became the first Track & Field athlete in Lipscomb history to advance to the NCAA I National Finals, qualifying in the 3000m Steeplechase in 2013, earning honorable mention All-American honors. Madi qualified to the NCAA I National Finals again in 2014, this time finishing 16th to earn 2nd Team NCAA I All American Honors.
Gemikal Prude became the first ever Lipscomb athlete to qualify for the NCAA I Indoor National Championships, finishing 9th in the nation to earn 2nd team NCAA I All American Honors. Then Gemikal became the first men’s qualifier in Lipscomb history to earn a spot at the NCAA I Outdoor National Track & Field Championships, earning Honorable Mention All American honors.
Kendra Lobley was voted 2012 ASUN Outdoor Track Freshman of the Year after winning the ASUN 3000m Steeplechase and 5000m run.
Dani Walker has been NCAA I National Academic All-American three times (XC 2012, Track 2012, 2013), and Peabody has earned NCAA I National Academic All-American honors twice (Track 2012, 2013).
Lipscomb has shown itself as a power in the women’s steeplechase, with an athlete earning All-A-Sun honors in each of Taylor’s seven years, including back-to-back-to-back-to-back conference champions in the event (Catherine Beals 2011, Lobley 2012, Talbert 2013 and 2014). In total, eight women have earned All-ASUN honors in the 3000m steeplechase, three have qualified for the NCAA I National Championship Preliminary Round and one has qualified for the NCAA I National Championship Finals twice.
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.
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.
Peabody became the first ever Lipscomb athlete to qualify for the USA Senior National Track & field Championships, finishing 21st in the United States at 200m.
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.
Last season, 2014, the women finished second in the nation again academically, with a cumulative GPA of 3.63.
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 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 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. Maggie Lawrence and Tessa Hoefle earned National CoSIDA Academic honors in 2013. Walker, Lobley and Peabody were named to the National Track & 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.
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. 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 & Field teams have also done mission trips the past six 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 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. This year Lipscomb XC and Track sent more than 20 to the Dominican Republic to serve with a parachurch missions organization there.
“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. 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 want to win NCAA I National Championships.
“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 incred10 years was one minute and 48 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 close to 3-minutes at Lipscomb. Just a few examples of incredible improvement: Lobley posted a time of 16:41 for 5000m last season as a freshman, bettering her high school PR of 19:46. 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 26 years. They have two daughters, Bella and Ellie. They reside in Franklin, Tenn.