The 2011NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships came to an exciting conclusion Saturday evening in Marion, Indiana, as TMC's John Gilbertson and Anthony Pizzo raced the men's 5000m final. It was a loaded race, featuring athletes such as Paul Chelimo of Shorter, Evans Kirwa of Embry-Riddle and Kennedy Kithuka (Africa's Junior Bronze Medalist) of Wayland Baptist. In an event dominated by foreign athletes, Gilbertson and Pizzo set themselves apart, chasing down their much older competition.
Going out hard from the gun with leaders Chelimo and Kithuka, John Gilbertson was unable to hang on to the quick pace, and ended up suffering late in the race. Waiting patiently in the middle of the chase pack, sophomore Anthony Pizzo covered every move as the pack closed the distance between themselves and Chelimo, Kithuka and Kirwa. With 800m to go Pizzo began to kick, passing all but the top four finishers. Coming across the line in 14:18, Pizzo finished 5th and earned All American Honors.
"Pizzo is a remarkable performer," said Coach Schroeder. "He knows how to race big when it counts. He's now a two-time NAIA All American. This past fall, Pizzo finished 9th in the nation at the NAIA Cross Country National Championships. He's had an outstanding year, and so has Gilbertson." Speaking of Gilbertson, Coach Schroeder comments, "Although his track season didn't end the way we would have hoped, I can't be unhappy with how aggressively he competed tonight. It took guts to attack the race the way Gilbertson did; it didn't work out for him tonight… that happens. He wanted to give himself a chance to win, and he did that. No regrets." Gilbertson ended up finishing 11th in 14:42.
Master's was the only team in the GSAC with any athletes competing in the final of the men's 5000m; TMC had two. With Super sophomores Gilbertson and Pizzo, the men's team looks to defend their GSAC Cross Country Championship Title this fall, hoping to become the first team in school history to win back to back conference titles.