Haley Bishop: Non-profit founder, actress and record-breaking sprinter

Bishop has rewritten record books in her first year with the Commodores.

Haley+Bishop+competes+in+the+2021+Arkansas+Qualifier+on+Feb.+5%2C+2021.+%28Twitter%2F%40VandyXCTrack%29

Haley Bishop competes in the 2021 Arkansas Qualifier on Feb. 5, 2021. (Twitter/@VandyXCTrack)

Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

Freshman sprinter Haley Bishop’s resume is long, on and off the track. She runs a non-profit to provide track spikes to athletes who cannot afford them, is a talented actress and holds numerous records at Vanderbilt.

Bishop started We Set the Pace in 2018, but the idea for the non-profit had been brewing since she was in eighth grade.

“I ran track in middle school, and I saw that one of my teammates had a hole in his spikes and a lot of my teammates did not have any running shoes,” Bishop says. “They would run in Converse and things you shouldn’t be running in. I told my parents about it, like, ‘I wish we could do something because it’s not fair that I’m privileged and lucky to have parents who are able to get things for me, but other people aren’t so lucky.’”

We Set the Pace’s focus has been on the Spikes for the Soul initiative. The goal of the project is to provide new or gently used track and field spikes to middle school student-athletes.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, running the Spikes for Soul initiative has been tough. Bishop says she decided to pause the project while track seasons were being cancelled and people who may have donated money to the cause were struggling to get through the pandemic. 

“I am looking forward to getting that back up, but just with COVID-19, I felt like it was better to pause it and reflect on the world,” Bishop says.

Bishop has stayed mostly local in her efforts, focusing on her hometown of Fort Mill, South Carolina, about 20 miles southwest of Charlotte. She also expanded to a suburb of Atlanta and hopes to expand to the East Coast soon.

Not only did she work on the non-profit and run track in high school, but she also pursued her love of acting. 

She had been in plays since elementary school but really dove into acting in middle school through a program called ST-ARTS, hosted by Winthrop University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. 

Additionally, Bishop wrote a play, a tragedy, her sophomore year, and it was performed by the school.

“It was about this woman named Eileen, and she was jealous of her husband and his mom’s relationship, and she didn’t want the mom in the picture at all,” Bishop says. “She tried to frame his mom for murder. It was a very interesting play. I don’t know what 10th-grade me was thinking.”

She acted in school productions as Thing One in Seussical The Musical as well as a few other plays.

“I used to be 100% dedicated to acting,” Bishop says. “I love running—don’t get me wrong—but I used to want to act and get an agent in Hollywood. I feel like every little kid has that dream of being this famous actor one day, and there was a time in my life where the acting was just more important to me than track was.”

Bishop auditioned for the prestigious Governor’s School summer program in 2017 and was accepted. While she loved the experience of being around other people interested in acting, she ultimately decided not to audition for the school because that would mean giving up her other love: track.

The all-state sprinter had plenty of options to run in college, but Vanderbilt stood out to her for its friendly campus and SEC competition.

Her adjustment to college track wasn’t easy. She came to campus with the rest of the first-years in August this past fall, and had about two weeks to acclimate to the college environment before track practice began.

“I would hear from my high school coaches that college track was going to be tougher than this, and I was like ‘whatever, it’s fine. I’ve been running track forever,” Bishop says. “Especially in this conference, you have to bring your A-game every single meet because everybody’s just as good as you. Everybody was a state champion. Everybody has been good at this for years.”

Bishop credits her team and fellow sprinter Madison Fuller for pushing her in practice.

“I am so grateful for Madison,” Bishop says. “It’s been awesome having somebody that’s at the same level as you because not only can you get better at practice and compete at practice, but you still have that great relationship at the end of the day.”

Bishop has had an outstanding start to her first season as a Commodore. She competed in all four indoor meets in the winter. She set a then-school record in the 60-meter race in her collegiate debut at the Vanderbilt Invitational in January with a time of 7.51 seconds. At the Music City Challenge a few weeks later, she posted the fourth-fastest time in school history in the 200 meters (24.38).

“I think her mentality and competitiveness make her special,” head coach Steve Keith says.

She finished 18th in the 60-meter race at the SEC Indoor Championships in February to cap off the indoor season.

Her success isn’t much of a surprise to those who know her best. In high school, she looked at the Vanderbilt record books with her parents and saw that she was running times that would make the Vanderbilt record books. Bishop took those times as a challenge once she arrived on campus.

“I was kind of like, ‘huh, I wonder if I could break this record,’” Bishop says. “I think that pushes me in training because not only do I want to qualify for Nationals and SEC’s, but I also want to leave a lasting impact on the school, too.”

More records are left for Bishop to break during the upcoming outdoor season and her next few years.