In his last meet as a member of the UBC Thunderbirds, John Gay walked off the track with no regrets, a lot of memories and yet another piece of golden hardware.
The 21-year-old from Kelowna capped off his university career in style last weekend, capturing the 3,000-metre steeplechase title for the third consecutive year at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championship.
In hot and muggy conditions in Gulf Shores, Alabama, the Okanagan Mission Secondary grad ran to the national title in a time of 9:o4.36.
“It’s always exciting, it’s always nerve wracking, and I’m so thrilled to get the job done once again,” said Gay following his third straight NAIA gold. “I’m super excited to finish off my last collegiate steeplechase on a high note.”
Kelowna’s Sean Bergman, Gay’s UBC teammate, finished in ninth spot at the NAIA finals. Last year, Gay and Bergman went 1-2 in the 3,000 steeplechase at nationals.
Gay found the podium for the second time at the NAIAs with a second-place finish in the 5,000 metres in 14:42.18.
In reflecting on his four-year stay with the UBC program, Gay said there’s little he would change. He credits his coaches and teammates for keeping the experience fresh and allowing him to continue to evolve as both an athlete and a person.
“Every year is a bit of different path,” said Gay, the NAIA West Region men’s track athlete of the year. “I’m really fortunate to have a great team around me.
“The dynamic has really changed each year, so it hasn’t felt like same-old, same-old, there have been different challenges over the years,” said Gay. “It’s made for such a rich and fulfilling experience. I hope I’ve somehow left my mark on the program.”
While his collegiate career is at an end, Gay plans to forge full speed ahead with his running, training with the Vancouver Thunderbirds Track Club. In the big picture, Gay’s sights are set on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In 2015, the qualifying standard for the Olympics in steeplechase was 8:32. With his personal best sitting at 8:36, Gay isn’t all far off from taking a legitimate run at a childhood dream.
“It’s something that’s kind of sunk in the last year and a half, it’s become a big goal for me,” said Gay. “I’ve taken along-term approach to try and achieve it, I’ve had tremendous support and continue to from the Vancouver Thunderbirds and coaches Chris Johnson and Norm Tinkham.
“It’s been really beneficial in my development.”
In terms of his education, Gay’s time at UBC has also come with many rewards. The Kelowna runner has earned his degree in International Relations and is now in the process of pursuing his Masters.
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