TRAVERSE CITY — Call it the passing of the torch.
Lisa Taylor is stepping down as head coach of the Traverse City Central girls track program. Assistant Robyn (Eley) Thompson is stepping in.
It’s a move that was made official this week.
“I always had this in the back of my mind,” Taylor said of the change of guard. “And Robyn knew it. For the last three years, I’ve been like, ‘Are you ready, Robyn?’ I think she’ll really enjoy it and the kids will enjoy having her (as head coach), especially since she’s got such a great background with the program.”
Thompson — an All-State sprinter, hurdler and long jumper at Central in the early 1990s — joined the Trojan coaching staff when Taylor took over as head coach in 2007. She coached the sprinters, hurdlers and long jumpers — and will continue to do so. Taylor, meanwhile, will continue coaching the distance runners.
“I told her I wouldn’t do this without her, “ Thompson said. “It’s a dream role for a new head coach to step in and have someone with so much experience, talent and success as Lisa right there with you. She said, ‘Don’t be afraid to ask. I’m here to help you.’
“She’s been preparing me for this, adding more duties to my position every year. I can’t wait. It’s a fantastic opportunity. This is my hometown. There is where I went to school. This is what I love to do.”
Thompson, who has two small children, takes over a program that won Big North Conference and Division 1 regional titles last spring.
“We have a good team coming back with a strong senior class,” Thompson said. “We took more events to states last year than we have in a long time. This is going to be a very exciting season.”
Practice starts March 10.
Another bonus for Thompson: The entire Central staff will remain intact.
“The only difference is that Lisa and I have swapped roles,” Thompson said. “All of us are going to be coaching the same things that we were before. For the kids, it’s going to seem seamless.”
“It’s awesome that it worked out this way, that we had such great support from the school to be able to make this move,” Taylor added.
Thompson still holds two of the four school records she set as a Trojan (long jump and 100 meters). Taylor, coincidentally, was her sprints coach in high school. Thompson’s success earned her a track scholarship to Central Michigan University. She later coached for five years in public schools in Michigan and Florida before returning to Traverse City.
“This is a perfect situation for our track program,” Central interim athletic director Jay Larner said in a release. “She’s a passionate coach who’s had tons of success. Her knowledge, experience, and character are second to none. We’re very fortunate.”
Taylor — who recently gave up her Vasa and Cherry Festival race directorships, too — said she is just “trying to have fewer irons in the fire.” She’ll continue coaching the Central girls cross country team.
“Somebody asked me the other day if I was still going to coach cross country,” Taylor said. “I about jumped at them. I said, ‘Yes. Don’t even think for a second that that is in my thoughts.’ I see myself doing that until I’m an old lady.”
Track athletes should keep this date in mind: Student-athletes from East Middle School and Central High School interested in track and field are asked to attend an informational meeting on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.