Caryl Smith Gilbert Named MPSF Women’s Coach of the Year

Caryl Smith Gilbert, USC Director of Track and Field, has recently been named 2017 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Women’s Coach of the Year. Smith Gilbert has been named MPSF Coach of the Year four years in a row now, in both men’s and women’s sports.

Smith Gilbert was proven an immediate asset her first year at USC, where the men’s and women’s team rounded up 28 first-team All-America honors together. But for Smith Gilbert, her passion for running began long ago.

“It makes me feel free,” said Smith Gilbert. “You can think, you feel like you can fly. Running is my freedom.”

Smith Gilbert’s lifetime affair with running began when she was 12 years old. After quitting nearly every sport or activity she had previously been involved in, Smith Gilbert signed herself up for track and field at her local YMCA in Denver, Colorado. In her first race, Smith Gilbert ran the 100 meter dash in just 11.78 seconds. She had finally found her calling.

Smith Gilbert quickly became a local celebrity, eventually joining the Colorado Fliers Track Club. The Fliers’ main goal was for each athlete to receive a scholarship to run at the collegiate level. Smith Gilbert said Head Coach Tony Wells was tough.

“You didn’t ask questions, you didn’t talk back,” said Smith Gilbert. “You sacrificed everything.” So that’s what Smith Gilbert did. In her high school career, Smith Gilbert received over 200 offers from collegiate programs.

Smith Gilbert finally decided to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where her attitude about track changed vastly.

“My career at UCLA didn’t go as planned,” said Smith Gilbert. “I was injured, my coach and I weren’t as close… it mostly was my fault because I had a bad attitude.”

After graduating from UCLA, Smith Gilbert went back to her home state to coach high school track and field. At George Washington High School (GWHS), Smith Gilbert found herself creating real connections with her students, and vice versa. From GWHS, Smith Gilbert went on to coach at Penn State University and the University of Alabama.

Smith Gilbert accepted an assistant coaching position at the University of Tennessee. In her five seasons there, Smith Gilbert led the women’s team to a slew of awards including SEC Indoor Champions and NCAA Indoor Champions.

When the University of Central Florida (UCF) offered Smith Gilbert the head coach position over the track and field program, she was hesitant.

“They called me from Central Florida to be head coach and I said, ‘Where is that?’,” said Smith Gilbert.

Smith Gilbert ended her career at UCF with six conference championships, and fifth place at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. This performance led to a head coach offer from the University of Clemson, which she turned down to accept a position at the University of Southern California (USC).

“USC is my favorite place without a doubt, because of the way they treat me,” said Smith Gilbert. “And the way they treat everyone.”

While Smith Gilbert can be tough on her athletes, she holds herself and her assistant coaches to the same standard.

“We owe it to our athletes to give them our very best at all times,” said Smith Gilbert.

Smith Gilbert has the confidence that this team can take it all the way, and said the goal is to win a national title this year. “We have to decide that fear isn’t going to overcome our dreams,” said Smith Gilbert.

The USC Track and Field team begins PAC-12 Multi-Events Championships on March 6th in Corvallis, Oregon.

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