Mark Taylor served as the head coach for the University of Houston women's swimming and diving team from 2002 until his untimely passing in March 2011.
Known for bringing in new rounds of talent each year, Taylor continued the trend during the 2009-10 season, by guiding two underclassmen to Conference USA titles en route to helping his team to a fourth-place conference finish.
Taylor brought in an all-star Hungarian swimmer in Reka Kovacs. Under his direction, Kovacs busted her way into the record books several times during her rookie campaign, including a C-USA Championship record, a UH record and a Campus Recreation and Wellness Center Natatorium record when she won the 400-yard IM league championship with an NCAA-qualifying time of 4:16.24.
Aside from Kovacs, Taylor also helped fellow underclassman, Beccy Hillis, to a conference title. In her second season swimming for Taylor, Hillis holds the program's fastest 200-yard breaststroke time as well as claim to the C-USA championship in the event.
Taylor encourages his team in the classroom as enthusiastically as he does in the water. His team was recognized as a Scholar All-America Team by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA). Three of his swimmers individually earned Scholar All-America honors: Hillis, Kovacs and Andrea Kells.
In 2008, Taylor helped lead the Cougars to their best season yet under his guidance. Houston achieved a 10-6 record at dual meets while breaking 15 school records, including every single relay event.
Houston finished second at the Conference USA Championships with 623 points. This was the highest the Cougars have placed at the event. Three athletes took home conference individual awards including, Sasha Schwendenwein as the Swimmer of the Year, Anastasia Pozdniakova as the Diver of the Year and Jessalyn Almond as the Freshman Diver of the Year. In addition to the honors his athletes earned, Taylor himself was named the C-USA Swimming Coach of the Year.
The team finished in 17th place at the NCAA Championships. It was Houston's highest finish since 1986 and the ninth consecutive year to finish among the Top 30. Schwendenwein took home 16th place in the 200-yard butterfly en route to earning All-American honors. This was the highest finish by a Cougar in an NCAA swimming final since 1989.
Following the collegiate season, Taylor was an assistant coach for Kim Eeson and her native country of Zimbabwe at the FINA World Championships.
In 2007-08, Taylor helped the Cougars to a 28th-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Championships. This was the Cougars' eight consecutive year to finish among the Top 30 in the NCAA Championships. Houston had another winning season, finishing 9-8 in the regular season.
In 2006-07, Taylor helped lead the Cougars to one of the finest seasons in school history. With 18 dual-meet wins, UH set a single-season record, doubling the previous best. He also moved his career winning percentage in dual meets above the .500 mark, the highest of any coach in program history.
The Cougars also earned 38 points at the 2007 NCAA Championships to finish 23rd, the seventh straight season that UH has finished in the Top 25 at the nation's highest collegiate meet.
In 2005-06, Taylor led the Cougars to a 9-8 overall record and 23rd-place showing at the NCAA Championships. The Cougars' win total tied a then-program single-season high and marked the second time in the last three seasons that UH accomplished that feat.
Besides the overall team success, several Cougar swimmers enjoyed tremendous individual success under Taylor's guidance. Five swimmers combined to record 50 of the school's fastest times in 12 different individual events and six relay events.
Szintia Szanto established school records in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events as well as the 200-yard individual medley, while Andrea Pa'lmai posted the fastest time in the 400-yard individual medley. The Hungarian duo broke previous records that had stood for at least 15 years.
And once again, the Cougar Swimming and Diving program ranked among the finest groups of UH student-athletes with 12 competitors being named to the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll.
That kind of success is nothing new for Taylor during his tenure in the Bayou City. He led the Cougars to a 20th-place finish at the 2005 NCAA Championships, tying as the best performance by UH at that prestigious meet since 1986-87.
Taylor's Cougar swimmers and divers also excelled in the classroom where they posted a combined 3.37 grade point average. That mark was ranked No. 18 nationally and earned the Cougars an Academic All-American Team designation by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America.
In 2003-04, Taylor led the Cougars to one of the best seasons in school history. UH posted nine dual-meet victories to set a new school single-season record with three of those wins coming against Conference USA opponents.
When UH hosted the 2004 Conference USA Championship at its own Campus Recreation & Wellness Center Natatorium, the Cougars finished third, the best showing ever and the highest finish at any conference meet since 1985-86.
With 36 points at the 2004 NCAA Championships, the Cougars finished 22nd nationally and enjoyed their fourth consecutive finish among the Top 25 leaders.
After stepping into the job in the summer of 2002, Taylor wasted little time in building the Cougars back into a national power, finishing 20th at the 2003 NCAA Championships.
Although the team won only three dual meets in 2002-03, it was the highest win total by a first-year UH swimming and diving coach in program history.
The Roseburg, Ore., native brought a wealth of international experience to the Cougar program upon his arrival in 2002. Prior to starting at UH, Taylor worked with the Danish swimming team at the 2002 European Championships in Berlin, the 2002 World Championships in Moscow and the 2001 European Championships in Antwerp.
Before coming to UH, Taylor served as head coach of Swim Team Odense 95 in Denmark, supervising a program with more than 3,000 athletes, including several world-ranked swimmers.
One of his athletes -- Louise Ornstedt -- placed fourth in the 100 backstroke at the World Short Course Championships in Moscow in April 2002.
Taylor joined the college coaching ranks as an assistant coach at Arizona State from 1994 to 1998. During his stay in Tempe, Taylor helped lead the Sun Devils to consecutive top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships in 1995 and 1996. He also coached Pac-10 and NCAA individual champion Beata Kazuba in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events as she became the first female to break the "magic" 1-minute mark.
In 1997 and 1998, Taylor worked with the ASU men's program and helped lead the Sun Devils to back-to-back Top 11 finishes at the NCAA Championships. He also helped coach Pac-10, NCAA individual champion and world champion Francisco Sanchez in the 50 freestyle.
In addition to his collegiate duties at Arizona State, Taylor also was the head coach of Mesa Aquatics from 1994 to 2000, a swimming club with more than 120 members. Under his guidance, Mesa Aquatics captured Arizona championships in 1994, 1996 and 1998.
Taylor returned to university studies and earned his bachelor's degree in recreation management from Arizona State in 2001.
Besides his collegiate coaching, Taylor brings international and Olympic experience to the Cougar program. He has assisted several National Teams -- Denmark, Iceland, Lithuania and Great Britian -- as well as individual athletes from 15 countries to European, Olympic and World performances.
His swimmers have performed in each of the last four Olympics.
In 1996, Taylor worked as the head coach of the Lithuanian Olympic Team, a squad which broke 12 national records and posted four Top-16 finishes.
Before working at Arizona State, Taylor spent five years in England where he worked with the City of Coventry Swimming Club from 1990 to 1991. From there, he served as the head coach of the Borough of Waltham Forest Swimming Club until 1994.
A graduate of Satellite High School in Satellite Beach, Fla., Taylor stayed in the Sunshine State following his prep days and began his coaching career. In 1987, he worked with Swim Florida as an assistant head coach.
In 1988, he continued his Swim Florida duties and began as the head swimming coach at Ft. Myers High School, where he served until 1990.
Taylor is a member of USA Swimming, the American Swimming Coaches Association, the World Swimming Coaches Association and the College Swimming Coaches Association of America. He also is currently on the USA Swimming National Team Managers List.
In the early stages of his career, Taylor was mentored by several individuals, including John Funk, coach at Satellite High School; Robert (Mac) Kennedy, coach with Swim Florida and Arizona State head coaches Tim Hill and Dr. Ernie Maglischo.
He is survived by his wife Lorraine and their two sons, Troy Nicholas and Zane Benjamin.
THE TAYLOR FILE
Full Name: Mark James Taylor
Date of Birth: January 28, 1961
Date of Death: March 18, 2011
Hometown: Roseburg, Ore.
Named UH Head Coach: June 21, 2002
Satellite Beach High School, Satellite Beach, Fla. 1979
Arizona State University, B.A. in recreation management 2001
Wife: The former Lorraine Mills
Children: Sons Troy Nicholas and Zane Benjamin
2002-11 Houston, Head Swimming & Diving Coach
2001-02 Odense, Denmark, Head Coach
2000-01 Breidablik, Iceland, Head Coach
1994-00 Mesa Aquatics, Head Coach
1994-98 Arizona State, Assistant Coach
1991-94 Waltham Forest Swimming Club, Head Coach
1990-91 Coventry Swimming Club, Head Age Group Coach
1988-90 Ft. Myers High School, Head Coach
1987-90 Swim Florida, Assistant Coach
INTERNATIONAL COACHING EXPERIENCE
2009 C-USA Coach of the Year
Led the Cougars to a 28th-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Championships.
Helped lead UH to a 23rd-place finish at the 2007 NCAA Championships, the seventh straight season that the Cougars finished among the Top 25 at that meet.
Led the Cougars to a school-record 18 dual-meet wins in 2006-07, doubling the program's previous best.
Guided five swimmers to 50 Top 10 times in school history, including four individual records and two relay records during the 2005-06 season.
Led the 2003-04 Cougar team to a then-school single-season record with nine dual-meet victories and equaled that mark in 2005-06.
Led the 2003-04 Cougars to their best finish at a conference meet since the 1985-86 season and equaled that finish in 2005-06.
Recorded most dual meet records by first-year UH Swimming and Diving coach in 2002-03.
Winningest coach in program history with a .511 winning percentage and ranks second with 45 dual-meet victories.
2009 International Swimming Federation (FINA) World Championships (Assistant Coach, Zimbabwe)
2002 European Long Course Championships (Coach, Denmark)
2002 World Short Course Championships (Coach, Denmark)
2002 European Short Course Championships (Coach, Denmark)
1998 World Championships (Coach, Great Britain)
1996 Olympic Games (Coach, Lithuania)
1993 World Short Course Championships (Coach, Great Britain)
1993 European Championships (Coach, Lithuania)
INTERNATIONAL COACHING EXPERIENCE