Legendary Drake High trainer Bill Taylor dies at 87

  • Drake’s retired track and field coach Bill Taylor speaks at the opening of the William Taylor Track and Field Festival at Drake in San Anselmo, Calif. On Saturday, March 3, 2018. The All Comers Meet was renamed this year in honor of the former Coach Sailor. (Alan Dep / Marin Independent Journal)

  • Bill Taylor, Drake High Student Advisor Arete West pictured at Drake High on Wednesday June 10, 2009. (IJ photo / Jeff Vendsel)

  • Longtime Drake High School coach Bill Taylor passed away at the age of 87 on October 4, 2021. Taylor, pictured in 2008 in front of his distinctive 1970 VW Beetle, spent 40 years coaching the track at Drake High. (Special IJ / Douglas Zimmerman)

When we talk about Bill Taylor, a few words come to mind: tradition, passion… excellence.

Mr. Taylor embodied the pursuit of excellence and, for nearly 40 years, shared that passion with the runners he coached at Drake High – now Archie Williams High. Mr Taylor, who is considered one of the architects of the running community in Marin County, died Monday at the age of 87, after battling an illness for the past year.

From 1978 to 2017 Mr. Taylor was a track and field and cross country trainer at Drake, where he celebrated each cross country season the joy of racing by releasing carrier pigeons. It was just one of the traditions he created by making the Pirates a dominant force.

Its impact has extended far beyond the San Anselmo High School track to the entire Marin and North Bay running community. His influence on generations of young runners extended much further.

“I remember how successful he was coaching his Drake teams in the 1980s,” said Archie Williams track and cross country coach Robyn Berry, who was playing for Terra Linda at the time. “It’s a sign of a great coach: his athletes were still in close contact with him long after graduation. He had a connection with them.

The Marin High School running community has now lost three of its titans in the past 15 months. Former longtime Tam coach Bruce Grant passed away at the age of 91 in August 2020. Longtime former Redwood coach Doug Basham passed away on November 1, 2020. Together they had over a century of experience in training local runners.

“(Taylor) pretty much started athletics in Marin. He was one of the first coaches, ”said Laura Schmitt, longtime Redwood coach. “Going back to when I was in high school, when I was running at Redwood and he was coaching at Drake, I remember he was a coach interested in sharing everything he knew about the world with everyone. athletes. He had his arms outstretched towards all the other schools. I remember knowing he used track and field and cross country as a way to teach life skills.

Mr. Taylor’s trips to Greece and other countries were legendary, with groups of his runners learning about the history and traditions of cultures while enjoying new experiences on the Arete trips.

“Through sports and travel he was so multidimensional,” Berry said. “He was a fantastic athlete himself and he translated that as a coach. He was convincing and thoughtful. He taught a course on Greek history every year during these trips. It was a defining experience for the people who were part of it. “

Archie Williams’ installation is named Arete Track in honor of Mr. Taylor, who declined the offer to carry his name. Arete refers to the Greek word for excellence and virtue, something Mr. Taylor has always tried to instill in his runners.

“Going into big competitions he told his runners to ‘fight well’ which has several meanings, all of which are appropriate for Bill,” Berry said. “Whether it’s competing with honor or doing your best to win. He believed that if you don’t strive for excellence, then it’s not worth it.

Prior to coaching at Drake, Mr. Taylor was a decorated athlete in his own right, competing in the 400 and 800 on national champion teams at USC. Mr. Taylor spent time in the Marines after college and became a Presbyterian pastor while living in San Anselmo.

Mr. Taylor has coached many of Marin’s all-time runners to Drake and was inducted into the Marin Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame in 2003. Mr. Taylor has written a book about his life, “Igniting The Flame,” in 2008.

No memorial plans have been announced, although events are planned to be held in honor of Mr Taylor as the cross-country season ends soon and also during the spring track and field season.

“It’s our track and field history,” Schmitt said. “Thanks to the people he taught, history will stay alive… The kids he taught are now coaches. His legacy lives on 100 percent.

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