Des Moines, Iowa – After 25 laps in the men's 10,000 meter race at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, John Gilbertson's track career at The Master's College came to a close.
And while Gilbertson's final time of 32 minutes and 20.33 seconds earned him an undesirable 25th place finish, his total performance as a Mustang athlete, culminating on one of the world's largest track and field stages, can be summed up in one word: admirable.
Consider this: over a year ago, Gilbertson competed in the 5k preliminary heat at the 2012 NAIA Men's Track National Championships, where in the fourth lap he lost his left shoe. Gilbertson not only finished the final 8 ½ laps, but qualified for the 5k final on a foot that was seriously bloodied and torn from the track. Determined to race the next day, Gilbertson utilized a tape job that took over an hour to perfect, put his spikes on, and stepped back onto the track to compete in the final race of his junior campaign. Gilbertson battled through the pain, and finished 14th overall with a final time of 16:10.29.
But not even a bloodied foot could prevent Gilbertson from experiencing what was about to happen.
In the fall, Gilbertson completed the 2012 cross country season by winning each of the seven races he entered, including the UC Irvine Invitational, Stanford Invitational, and the Bronco Invitational at Santa Clara University.
Gilbertson capped his phenomenal senior cross country season by earning NAIA All-American honors when he won the individual championship in 23:56 at the 2012 NAIA Cross Country National Championships on November 17. Notably, it had been 23 years since an American-born runner claimed the top prize in NAIA men's cross country. The last time it happened, calendars displayed 1989 when Rick Robirds from Adams State (Colo.) won his third individual title in four years.
But Gilbertson wasn't done.
Three months later, the 2013 track season kicked off for The Master's College Mustangs, featuring 16 races that eventually produced the best season in program history, highlighting Gilbertson all along the way.
In one of his finest moments, Gilbertson set a then world-leading time in the 10k on March 29 at the Stanford Invitational in 28:30.35. On April 27, Gilbertson again competed in the 10k and won the event at the 2013 GSAC Championships with a final time of 31:34.23. Before his performance at the USA Track and Field Championships, Gilbertson last competed in the 10k on May 23 at the 2013 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships where he placed third overall in 30:25.89, earning All-American honors.
Gilbertson also earned NAIA All-American honors in the 5k when he placed first in the event at 14:08.07 at the 2013 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships.
His accomplishment of reaching NAIA All-American honors in both the 5k and 10k was a feat never before achieved by a Mustang track athlete.
Those accolades, coupled with a plethora of school records set while competing at TMC, secured Gilbertson a spot in Thursday's 10k race at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships where he competed against the nation's finest.
And even though Gilbertson's time at The Master's College is through, the standout runner has no plans on hanging up the spikes any time soon.
When asked in a recent interview about his post-collegiate goals, Gilbertson simply stated "my plans are to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games."
Since then, Gilbertson has been in the process of achieving that goal by being in communication with a number of professional coaches and elite teams.
One thing for sure, if Gilbertson can produce the same results at the next level that he did in his time at The Master's College, Mustang fans can expect to see him compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
And even if he doesn't, the legacy that Gilbertson leaves The Master's College is something no one will forget anytime soon.
"John Gilbertson is the type of guy who practices excellence in every area of life," said eighth-year Mustang track and field head coach Zach Schroeder. "Gilbertson has a consistent testimony in his commitment to the sport, but more importantly, in his commitment to the Lord. He's set the standard of the ideal athlete that we look for at The Master's College."
To learn more about John Gilbertson and his outstanding student-athlete testimony click here.