Greenville, S.C. – On January 16th, the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) revealed this year’s inductees for the Hall of Fame, and Bethel track and field coach Tony Natali earned a spot on the list. Upon hearing about his Hall of Fame nod, Natali said that he was honored and humbled by the notion.
I’m excited because we’ve always been a big part of the NCCAA, we always have been, and it’s just nice to be recognized,” Natali said. “It’s really an honor for all of the coaches we have and all of the athletes we have. It’s not just me by any stretch. It’s just everybody that’s been a part of the program and still is a part of the program.”
Before arriving at Bethel, Natali coached at Marian University for eight years. Then, in 1999, he was offered the job at Bethel and started his long career as the Bethel track and field head coach.
Along with being a part of the track and field program, Natali served as an assistant coach under Mike Lightfoot’s basketball staff until Lightfoot retired last year. He also served as assistant athletic director until just a few years ago. Natali contributed his success to the staff and athletes he has had around him for the past 20 seasons.
“The biggest (contributors) that I’d like to thank right away is the staff that we have: Danny Wilkenson, Brandon Wilchcombe, Ryan Sommers (and) Rob Rose, those guys are instrumental in what we do every day,” he said. “They do all of the training and they do all of the work. I mean, it’s just great to see them buy into what we’re doing as a program and our system. They’re behind the scenes and do everything very well.”
Natali had a few moments from his career that he mentioned as well, such as the fact that his team has won eight NCCAA championships over the years. The track and field has also had seven Wheeler Award-winning athletes. The Wheeler Award is essentially a “top athlete of the year” award.
“Those are just key things that we’re excited about,” said Natali. “Every opportunity we have to go out and compete, those are special, so we don’t want to take anything for granted. We want to go out and compete as hard as we can and give God the glory for everything that we can.”
The Pilot track program has not only garnered talent to produce eight NCCAA National Championships and seven Wheeler Awards under Coach Natali, but they’ve also earned All-American recognition 311 times, the Scholar Athlete award 118 times and 195 individual NCCAA National Champions. His coaching staff has also earned the NCCAA Coaching Staff of the Year eight times.
The awards and accolades keep on coming too. As of Friday, the Men’s track and field team is ranked ninth in the inaugural United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll. Erik Escobedo, Jordan Downs and Danielle Wojciechowski have all broken Bethel program records in long jump, pole vault and weight throw respectively.
Natali and Indiana Wesleyan’s volleyball head coach Candace Moats will both be inducted into the NCCAA Hall of Fame on May 31, 2018 at the Hall of Fame banquet during the NCCAA Annual Convention.