In the week leading up to Oct. 7’s Alexander/Asics Invitational in Douglasville, Forsyth Central’s Calan Gizelbach was amped up.
The race was on the fastest course in the state, and Gizelbach saw it as a prime chance to set a personal record and take down East Coweta’s Kyle Harkabus, the only runner in Class 7A who could match him. But instead of the triumph he expected for himself, Central’s frontrunner finished ninth, his worst showing of the year. After all the work he’d done over his entire high school career, it was maddening.
“I was just like, ‘Why am I not getting faster this year?’” Gizelbach said. “I emailed a couple of coaches. I was talking to my coach and she was like, ‘You've put in the work. You're probably just tired -- just give it a chance.’
“It was getting over a mental battle I had with myself. I just had to know that I was in better shape than I was.”
Gizelbach won that battle with himself just in time for when the races really counted, cementing his position as the county’s fastest runner with an Area 3-7A individual boys title and a second-place individual performance at the state meet.
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Cross country wasn’t on Gizelbach’s radar until his freshman year, when his older brother introduced him to the sport. Back then, his commitment to cross country was divided with soccer. But as his high school career went on, his focus shifted to running, and he says he’ll be quitting soccer next spring to focus exclusively on it.
“Every year, I kind of started doing a little bit more as far as my work ethic,” Gizelbach said. “The faster I got and the more I started to run, the more I started to enjoy it. It started out being that I was just good at it. Now I do it because I love it.”
All his work paid off in the biggest races, a frigid state meet in Carrollton and during the area meet in Canton on Oct. 20, when Gizelbach cruised to a first place finish. He likened that race to a victory lap, not just because of his margin of victory, but because he had seen second place multiple times on that course.
“It was cool -- I just enjoyed it,” he said. “I enjoyed the moment. Getting to hold up the ones at the end, it means a lot. It was the last time I got to run on that course so it was enjoying that as my last region meet for cross county. I just wanted to do the best I could and enjoy it while I did it.”
Right before the area meet, Gizelbach committed to run at Dayton University, with a desire to experience something new out of state with a successful program. But before that, he’ll have another opportunity to chase a state title in track, where he’ll be competing in the one mile and two mile competitions. With his focus now solely set on running, he feels like he has a good chance to continue earning the accolades.
“I've got some high goals,” Gizelbach said. “I’ve played soccer so my track seasons haven't been the greatest thus far. So getting to focus on track, it's going to be great. I would like to win a state championship. It's always the goal, but I'm excited.”