Calan Gizelbach’s last high school race started out like so many before it.
He made his way to the starting line for the Class 7A 3200 meter state championship run at Berry College in early May, his final chance at a state title after finishing fifth in the 1600 meter finals that same day and second in cross country in November. But in the moments before his last race, the Forsyth Central senior did what he’s always done before getting in his starting position.
“The thing I love about running is how everyone is so nice to each other before the race,” he said. “You're talking to these guys, everyone's in a good mood. I got to the line and I just tuned everything out. All the nerves just kind of vanish once that gun fires.”
And when the gun went off, Gizelbach didn’t display a shred of those nerves. His time of 9:13.89 shattered his personal record in the event and finally earned him his long-awaited state championship, finishing two seconds in front of the second and third place finishers. He was excited, but didn’t immediately realize that he’d run the fastest time in the state at that point.
“I didn't see the clock when I finished,” Gizelbach said. “I didn't really know how fast I had run. I just knew that I won. When I finished I was just freaking out about that and then I looked back and saw the time. It was just like, ‘Wow.’ I was shocked.”
That result was the culmination of a year that saw Gizelbach making sacrifices and putting in the work and time into the primary goal of getting faster. That began during cross country season, and as his track season approached, he did more speed work to gain the extra advantage he needed. In February, he ran an indoor race, but going into it, he didn’t know where his fitness level was.
“I hadn't done racing since cross country season and I started in 13th place and just moved up to third,” Gizelbach said. “I ended up having a really strong kick at the end. Coming into state, I kind of had the same mindset.”
His strategy of moving up late wasn’t really needed at the county meet, where Gizelbach easily cruised to a win and broke the 4:20 mark in the 1600 for the first time. But at the state meet, the last minute kick he’d worked on for so long propelled him to the result he never expected.
Another reason for success that Gizelbach points to was his decision to quit soccer. Doing that was tough for him, especially as he watched the Bulldogs’ boys put together a solid season from afar. But it allowed him to have a singular focus on running, and after the year he’s had, he has no regrets.
“I was hesitant, and so to be able to come back and win and trust my coach, it meant a lot to win for her, for my parents and my brother,” Gizelbach said. “(My brother) was a big part of it, too -- he got me to really come out and run cross country. Because of him, I just won a state championship, too.”