John Gilbert

John Gilbert, Hall of Fame Athlete

John Gilbert, Hall of Fame Athlete

As a child, “Lil’ Johnny” would rather run than walk, never turned down a challenge and did not know what the words, “not big enough,” meant. Little only describes his stature; big was his destiny. At a very young age, he displayed true athleticism. This spirit was encouraged by mentors: Bill Van Schaick and Don Yee. SBHS coaches Sam Cathcart and Mike Moropoulos cultivated John’s talent. In 1960, he led the Golden Tornados to a CIF AAAA Football Cham- pionship and he received All-League honors for his 11.4 yards per carry and rushing over 1000 yards.

At SBHS in the spring of 1961, John took first place in the Compton Invitational 100 yard dash with a time of9.6 seconds. He took first place in the Russell Cup 100 yard dash with a time of 9.7 seconds, second place in the CIF Finals 100 yard dash 9.7 seconds and a third place at the State Meet 100 yard dash at 9.7. These victories were the precursor to a very successful track career where the world was Lil’ Johnny’s stage.

In 1963, John was recruited to join the top athletes with the Southern California Striders Track Club. At the Amateur Athletic Union Meet in Missouri, John took second place to Bob Hayes who broke the world record in the 100 yard dash in 9.1 seconds. John ran a 9.2 This finish won him a place on the USA Dual track team. John was now a world-class athlete run- ning in the world’s finest track venues. But one of his fondest memories was not his winning in races, itwas being asked by “Wilma Rudolph” to hold her seats during one of her races.

John is now a 24 year resident of Santa Maria, CA., working for ITT Industries at VAFB as a senior Computer Operator. He is a mentor in the Santa Barbara County Mentor Program. He has inspired young athletes to train hard, perfect their talents and achieve their goals. John has been married to his high school sweetheart, Pauline, for 38 years, and together they have 4 children and 11 grandchildren.