The term "student-athlete" is used frequently in college athletics, but Maureen Gibbs is one person who lives up to the true definition of the term.
Gibbs, an Ottawa Lake native and senior on the University of Toledo women's track and cross country team, is a biology major who intends to go to medical school next year.
Balancing her academic and athletic endeavors has become a way of life for her, and she's done quite well with it.
"She's an incredibly hard worker," UT track and cross country coach Kevin Hadsell said. "She gets great grades and she's the kind of kid that no matter what she's doing, she tries to do it to the highest level."
Gibbs joined the Rockets as a walk-on after graduating from Whiteford, primarily because of UT's premed program.
"Academically, Toledo was the best fit for me," she said. "I want to be a doctor, so I wrote coach [Hadsell] a letter. … And here I am."
Gibbs is applying to medical schools while attending class and running with the cross country team. Her plate is pretty full to say the least.
"It's been a challenge," Gibbs said. "It takes a lot of time-management and planning. You study on the way to the meet, you study on the way home from the meet, and when you travel you just have to stay on top of things."
Other than focusing on her studies, Gibbs has made tremendous strides athletically.
At Whiteford, Gibbs set the school record for 5K in cross country and was a regional qualifier in track and cross country. Yet she had a long way to go before she could contribute at UT, which has become a nationally respected program under Hadsell.
"Coming out of high school, she only ran around 22 minutes for 5,000 meters," Hadsell said. "But starting two years ago, the program started really getting on the track that it's on now, and I had to institute a minimum walk-on standard. The standard was you had to break 20 minutes, and at the time she wasn't even close to that."
But Gibbs wouldn't be deterred.
"She took to the challenge, and just like she does with everything else, she literally worked as hard as she could," Hadsell said, "and she ended up making the standard."
Last year in the Eastern Michigan Fall Classic, Gibbs ran one of the best races of her career. She finished in 33rd place with a time of 19:59 in the 5K run.
"There are several teams in the Mid-American Conference where she'd be a varsity runner," Hadsell said. "But you wouldn't have predicted that out of high school. It's really a nice testament to her that she took to the challenge and worked incredibly hard and has improved by literally minutes."
Although she's in the final year of her career at UT, Gibbs hasn't stopped setting the bar high for herself.
"My goal is to break 19 minutes in the 5K," Gibbs said. "I've really enjoyed my time at Toledo. The people have all been wonderful - the team and coaching staff are really great."
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