Even after two NJCAA Division III national titles in track, and one in cross country to his credit, Sandhills Community College Coach Jef Moody says that Daniel Taylor is still under the radar when he competes against runners from four-year colleges.
"I told him he's probably the most unknown national champion I've ever seen," the coach said during a workout on Monday. "He has three national championships and nobody knows him. I think that's one of the cool things about competing for a community college. They don't know what to expect."
Two weeks ago Taylor was named one of the NCAA and NJCAA National Athletes of the Week by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. It was the third time in his two years at Sandhills that he has received the award in track or cross country.
Last Friday at Mount Olive University's Trojan Challenge, he outraced a field of NCAA Division II and III contestants to win the 10,000 meter run with a time of 31.54.74. Teammate Andrew Bowen finished fifth with an NJCAA national meet qualifying time of 34:31.65.
Taylor received the USTFCCCA award after finishing fourth in the 5,000 and fifth in the 1,500 at the UNCW Seahawk Invitational in Wilmington on March 15-16. He had previously finished first in cross country meets against primarily NCAA competition, but this was his first win in track.
"I really needed that one because I wasn't happy with my times at the first meet," he said while working out with the team on the track of his alma mater, Union Pines High School, on Monday. "I really needed that 10,000 to be a good one."
Mount Olive won both the men's and women's meets. The Flyer men finished 11th out of 15 teams. In addition to Taylor and Bowen, points were earned by Jalen Easley with a fifth place finish in the 400 meter run and Daniel Hagen with an eighth place finish in the 5,000.
Picking up points for the Lady Flyers, who came in 12th out of 13 teams, was Sara Lindell with a fifth place finish in the 3,000 meter steeplechase.
Early in the workout, Moody announced to his team that the national championship meet in Utica, NY on May 9-11 was 37 days away. The Flyers have opportunities to qualify additional athletes for the national meet at North Carolina A&T's Aggie Invitational on April 12-13, and the Duke Invitational a week later.
Already qualified for the men are Taylor (1,500, 5,000 and 10,000), Bowen (10,000), Easley (400), Hagen (3,000 steeplechase) and Alex Worley (decathlon). Lady Flyers already in the national field include Claudette Smith (100 hurdles), Enya Dewars (3,000 steeplechase), Brianna Spencer (800) and Emily Doorey (heptathlon).
A number of the Flyer men and women are within reach of the qualifying standards.
"We've got plenty of time to put the final touches on everything," Moody said.
When Taylor completed his assigned nine miles of running for the day, he characteristically coaxed his coach into allowing him to run two more.
He received his associate degree from Sandhills in December, finishing with a GPA of 3.97. His busy schedule includes time spent at the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station in Aberdeen as a member of the Delayed Entry Program as a part of becoming a Marine Reservist. He will have a basic training commitment to fulfill some time after this semester. After that he plans to run and complete college at a four-year school.
Last May, Taylor was the national champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs. This spring he has the No.1 NJCAA qualifying times in those two races and is No. 2 in the 1,500.
"That's the plan," he said when asked if he plans to compete in all three races in May.
The three events add up to about 11 miles, but Moody thinks he can do it.
"I'm going to do my best to set him up to win all three," the coach said. "We're not going to expect world record or personal best times because you have to pace yourself, but there should be enough time between races. Nothing surprises me about this guy."