Meet Our Triathlon Coaches

Dink Taylor

I started running in 1978 with my Dad. Growing up in small town Gadsden, I had no opportunity to run XC or track. By 1981 I ran my first marathon in 2:56:35 at age 16, a state record that still stands. At age 21 I ran my first 100 miler. With all that life has to offer, family, raising kids and all of its peaks and valleys, running has always been a focal point for me. Along with my wife Suzanne, Running has been so important to me that we opened Fleet Feet Sports Huntsville 15 years ago. I have made my life revolve around running completely. 

I have been race director the Mountain Mist 50k Trail Run for the past 24 years, At the time it was the only trail race in Alabama. It started the trail race boom in Alabama and still consider the top trail run in the Southeast.

After suffering a stroke (SAH) in the summer of 2012, I decided to participate in my first Tri in 2013. It began in June at Mach Tenn Sprint Tri and ended in Oct with Great Floridian Full distance 140.6 miles despite not having ever swam until Feb 2013. My highlight Tri was at Augusta Ironman 70.3, the largest 70.3 in the world (3500 competitors). With a time of 4:28, it was good enough for 4th in the men's age division 45-49. I was in the top 10 percent in the world age group rankings in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Triathlon.

For my 50th birthday celebration, I did Ironman Chatty(PR 10:44:50) Ironman Louisville, Great Floridian 140.6, Ironman Florida and then ran JFK 50 mile run, all in 9 weeks. I called in the Ironman Slam and birthday run. 

Suzanne Taylor

I grew up a swimmer, competing since age 6 through high school.  I started running in 1990 to stay in shape after graduating from college. I started competing in Triathlons in 1993 but mostly just love to train. I completed my first marathon in 1995.  I thought I would be one and done but have completed several since  with a marathon PR of 3:21.  I have run the Boston Marathon 3 times.  I have completed the Swim for Hobbs Island 5 mile swim 3 times.   Recently I completed 4 Half Ironmans and One Full Ironman.  I love training more than racing!    I'm looking forward to training with all of you!


Dianna Cioppi

I have been running on and off for 20 years. I completed my first 5k race at 16.  In 2011 I signed up for the Fleet Feet marathon training group. This is just what I needed to jump start my dream of participating in an Ironman. I've always had a passion for triathlons, but never participated in one until 2012. Since, I have completed four full Ironman, four half Ironman races, and many Olympic and sprint distances.  I am an ITCA certified triathlon coach. With a family and three boy’s ages nine, eleven, and thirteen; having time to fit in my training can be challenging. It's my enthusiasm and determination that makes everything work.

Dennis Mix 140.6 Mentor

I began running 25 years ago prior to joining the US Army and have not stopped since. In 1997, while running on the beach in Melbourne, FL I injured my knee and had to undergo microfracture knee surgery. The orthopedic surgeon advised me that it was in my best interest to give up running. I tried other sports, like softball and volleyball but those just didn’t fill the void left from running. Against my Dr.’s advice I began running again a few years later. Due to the stress on the knee I could only run every other day. It took several years of slow progress to get back to full strength. I started participating in races about 6 years ago after my wife finished her first half marathon. She talked me into signing up for the Huntsville Sprint Triathlon. Half way thru the first lap of the swim I had to stop along the wall to catch my breath. I then had to stop at the end of each lap - it took me almost 15 minutes to complete the 400 meters. I absolutely hated it! Triathlon was too intense for me, so I went back to running. Over the next couple years I completed Rocket City Marathon twice and a couple of half marathons. Running was going fine but I needed a new challenge. As luck would have it, I was talked into signing up for TRI201 through Fleet Feet Huntsville. I was very apprehensive at first but I stuck with the training and began to enjoy the process and the races. I have been racing triathlons for four years now and have steadily improved.

Jamie Miller 140.6 Mentor

Graduated from East Tennessee State University in 1983. Competitive tennis player as a kid, played tennis at ETSU, was named team captain two seasons. Played professionally for a short period of time. Worked for 18 years as a tennis teaching pro. Road raced motorcycles for 16 seasons, winning a national championship in 2001. Have completed 47 Marathons, 12 Half Ironman races and 6 full Ironman races. Was a member of Team USA for the Duathlon World Championships in Ottawa, Canada.Have been a member of the Fleet Feet Huntsville Triathlon Team for the past 5 seasons.

Tom Longino 140.6 Mentor

I grew up in Dallas, TX and after a 23-year navy career moved to Huntsville where my family and I have enjoyed living for the last 8 years. I’ve participated in many sports through the years, everything from football, cross country, track, speed skating, cycling to motocross and mountain biking. However, after various injuries side tracked my motocross racing aspirations and as the demands of my navy career increased I fell into some bad habits and became sedentary. Like many today this lead to a lot of weight gain and general unhealthiness. So, I decided enough was enough and took control of my life back by starting to run leading to completion of a marathon and in turn to triathlon and Fleet Feet’s Tri-201 course. That was 5 years ago and what I discovered across 2 Ironman’s and a half dozen half Ironman finishes is that I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of triathlon. For the last year I’ve been coaching local triathletes to achieve their goals and have obtained USAT level I and open water swimming coaching certifications. My goals for this season are to continue to improve as a coach, mentor, and triathlete with my goal race being Ironman Augusta 70.3.

Ruth Marie Oliver 140.6 Mentor

Ruth Marie Oliver is originally from Mississippi and completed her first triathlon in 1998 while in college at Delta State University. Fast forward to 2012, she committed to getting back into shape with three other friends while on a camping trip on the coldest weekend of the year. Being a recreational swimmer and completing exactly one 5K, Ruth Marie decided to buy a road bike and take up triathlon because being a triathlete just sounded cool. During the summer of 2012 she completed two sprint triathlons and a duathlon. In 2013, she completed her first Olympic Distance in May and Ironman 70.3 Augusta in September. Just over two years after her first triathlon since college, Ruth Marie finished Ironman Chattanooga with a time of 13:39:21. Now, she is a veteran of nine half distance triathlons and five Ironman. She continues to return to the longer distance races because of the challenge in training and planning for a long day on the course. She believes Ironman is just as much mental toughness and planning as it is physical training.

Jennifer Smith 101 Mentor

I'm a born and raised Alabamian. I grew up in Hartselle and have lived in the North Alabama area all my life. I got my Bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering from UAH in 2002. I started running after I quit smoking in 2006 to keep from gaining weight. I trained for my first 5K (Cotton Row) in 2008 and I haven't stopped since. My triathlon career started when I friend of mine wanted to do the Huntsville Sprint Triathlon in 2008 but couldn't run because she was pregnant at the time. She asked me if we could do a relay - I would run, she would bike and swim. After that I was hooked. I decided to do one on my own so I signed up for the Frantic Frog triathlon that next month and came in next to last place. Then and there I decided that triathlon was where I was supposed to be and the season of 2009 was dedicated to improving and achieving competitive results. I did my first half Ironman in 2010 (Ironman 70.3 Florida) and my first Ironman in 2011 (Ironman Florida).


Paul Erickson 101 Mentor

Ran Cross Country and Track in High school but started running again as an adult in 2013 with the Fleet Feet NOBO classes my wife and I took.  We progressed through Tri 101, 102, and I continued on with 201.  Worked with some amazing coaches in all three disciplines (4 if you count the beer at the end!) and have been having fun since!

Enjoy the sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, but have my eye on the longer races at some point.  But with hiking (a trip to the Grand Canyon later this year is in the works for rim to rim to rim hike), offroading, and family out of town, finding the time to get it all done has kept those longer races at bay.

Swimming has been my weak link, despite being a certified scuba diver (Man, I wish I could use fins, BC’s, and regulators in triathlon!), but really enjoy the bike and am working on being stronger off the bike for a better run.  Again, Fleet Feet’s programs have helped with the run performance and I can’t speak highly enough about them!


Jess Ahrens 101 Coach

I am a woman who seeks to glorify God in all that I do and strives to keep a healthy balance between family, work, fitness, and rest--not an easy task in today's world. I have been married to my husband, Clay, for 5 years and we have 2 gorgeous daughters, Megan(12) and Ashley(10). I work part-time at CrossPointe Church as one of the Children's Ministry Directors. In 2010, I found myself unmotivated to exercise and was watching the pounds creep up a few each year but I reluctantly signed up for TRI 101 with a friend. I detested running and had never even done a 5K let alone a triathlon. That year I found a new passion for fitness and fell in love with triathlons!   I am now also Co-Head Coach of the TRI 101 program for Fleet Feet.

As I enter my 5th season, I am 30 pounds lighter, have met the most amazing group of triathletes, struggled through injures, butI still can't believe all I have accomplished that i would have never believed possible! Sprints, olympic's, half marathons, marathons, and a half Ironman. But what I am most proud of is not the times or the places but taking the risk each time to push myself further and further past my comfort zone to accomplish what I truly believed at one time to be impossible. I am so grateful for the opportunity through coaching and the racing team to be apart of other people experiencing the very same joy!

David Rawlings 201 Mentor

My strongest background is in running. I have been at it for over twenty years, even coming from a some strong cycling a few years before that. I only started triathlons five years ago, but have enjoyed it enormously. I missed cycling, so I entered a Sprint Triathlon and got immediately hooked. The following year, after training for a while, I got involved in a triathlon training group at Fleet Feet. That year, I raced several Sprint Distance events, an Intermediate (Olympic) Distance, and I even threw on a Half Distance at the end of the season. I learned a lot that year -- mostly that I had a new love for a new sport! I've been involved with the Fleet Feet training programs for several years now, and I believe they have not only made me a stronger athlete, but they have allowed me exposure to the local group that I would not have otherwise had. It's been so rewarding, and the friendships I've made are fantastic. Everyone keeps me motivated and the triathlon community is one in which I am very proud to be involved. I am coaching in two training programs this year, and I am meeting a lot of new triathletes.

Ashley Benton 70.3 Mentor

I grew up running track and cross country, but was never competitive. My Dad ran marathons and ultra marathons for years, and I always knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps. At the age of 20, I decided to train for my first marathon. I completed my first marathon (Rocket City) in 2006. Burned out from running, I decided to give triathlons a try, completing the USAT Collegiate National Championship race in the spring of 2007. I ran several marathons and half marathons in the years that followed.  After having my oldest son, I knew I needed some races to motivate me to get back into shape. In 2011-2012, I completed Savannah Marathon, Rocket City Marathon (x2), Mountain Mist, Augusta 70.3, and various other shorter distance races. I PR’ed in every distance in 2012! I stuck to shorter distances until after I had my youngest son in 2016, and again knew I needed another challenge. This led me to sign up for the Fleet Feet 70.3 program this past fall. This program laid the vital foundation to complete my 2nd 70.3,  Toughman Tennessee! To date I have done 1 50K, 7 marathons, 2 half iron distance races, 5 Olympic distance races, and countless other races. My goal races this year are Chattanooga 70.3 and Ironman Louisville! I am excited to help mentor the 70.3 program, and look forward to training with everyone!

Ken Smith 70.3 Mentor

I am not your typical triathlete as I was never a runner, biker or swimmer growing up.  In fact, I was not an athlete at all until only a few years ago.  After having surgery for cancer in 2010 and having my thyroid completely removed, I decided to take control of my health and become more active by first running a 5K, then with the encouragement of a friend, I signed up for Fleet Feet’s TRI 101 program.  I completed my first triathlon, the Huntsville Sprint Tri, in 2012.  To me, this was a big accomplishment two years after cancer and was one of the best feelings ever.  Since then, I’ve pushed myself to see how far I can go, completing several Olympic Distance Tri’s and half-marathons with Rocketman, Oak Barrel and the Smokey Mountain Half Marathon being some of my favorites. I completed my first full marathon in 2017 at the Rocket City Marathon.  I’ve completed the Fleet Feet TRI 70.3 training three times and did my first Ironman 70.3 at Augusta in 2016.  I was trained and ready for Ironman New Orleans 70.3 in 2017 but got rained out at the start line.  So, 2018 is my year of redemption and I’m excited to be helping with Fleet Feet 70.3 and look forward to training with the 140.6 group with the goal of completing the Louisville Ironman this fall.  I hope that I can be an example of the success that comes with great training and coaching through the Fleet Feet triathlon programs and to also be an encouragement to anyone who has doubts about their ability to reach their triathlon goals!

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