May 24, 2012
MARION, Ind. -- In the first of two heats of the men’s 5000m prelim, John Gilbertson began the race tactically, positioning himself in the top six among the field. In order to advance to Saturday’s 5k final, an athlete must finish in the top six of their respective heat, or post one of the next four fastest times.
Running at a comfortable pace through the first three laps, Gilbertson’s toughness and composure was about to be tested. Entering the fourth lap, the race became very crowded at the front. An athlete running closely behind Gilbertson stepped on the back of his foot, causing his left heel to come completely out of his shoe. With his shoe folded underneath his foot, Gilbertson recognized there was only one thing to do; he stopped, pulled off his left shoe, and continued the race.
The pause to remove his shoe was long enough to put him in last place, separated from the rest of the field by 20 meters. Refusing to give up, Gilbertson demonstrated his mental poise as he gradually worked his way back up to the lead pack. Running on a foot terribly torn up and bloodied from running barefoot for 8 laps on the track, Gilbertson ran tough to finish 4th in his heat and secure his advance to Saturday’s final.
Coach Schroeder comments, “These things happen on the track… You just always hope that it won’t happen to you. Gilby’s foot is pretty torn up, but he’s a champion, and champions never focus on what they can’t control, they focus on what they can control. We’re going to tape up that foot and come out to race big tomorrow.”
Immediately following the conclusion of Gilbertson’s race, TMC’s Anthony Pizzo competed in the second heat of the men’s 5k prelims. Pizzo ran exactly as planned, conserving as much energy as possible for tomorrow’s final. In what proved to be the faster of the two preliminary heats, Pizzo finished a comfortable 7th, easily advancing to the final on time.
“Pizzo is an extremely intelligent athlete,” Schroeder said. “He knew exactly where he was in the race and what time he needed to move on to the final. He came out, did what he needed to do, and is ready to race big alongside Gilbertson tomorrow. “
The final of the men’s 5000m race will take place tomorrow (Saturday) at 5:35 PM (EST).
To read a full recap of the second day of the NAIA Men's Track National Championships published by the NAIA, click here.