Player profile: Kaila Gibson

Kaila Gibson leads Portland State’s women’s cross country team

Kaila Gibson seems determined to leave a lasting impression during her time running long distance at Portland State.

Gibson currently holds PSU all-time records for the cross country program—running a 14:08.8 in the 4k race at the Viking Rust-Buster on Sept. 1—as well as in track and field, posting a 16:53.6 5k during the University of Washington Invitational on Jan. 8. Beyond those records, Gibson ranks in PSU’s top 5 all-time in the 5k and 6k cross country races, along with the indoor 3k, outdoor 3k steeplechase, outdoor 5k and outdoor 10k for the track and field program. In layman’s terms, Gibson has been hauling ass.

Gibson is serious about her plans to continue to excel athletically during her senior year. “I hope I continue on the same track that I have been,” stating her intention to take every one of her PRs and “make [them] better, continuing to improve upon everything.”

One race Gibson has truly set her eyes on is the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals in Madison, Wis., a race against around 40 different teams from across the country. Gibson is eager to have the opportunity to “compete with some really good teams, mix it up and have some new girls to chase.”

As if Gibson’s running career at PSU hasn’t been enough to set her apart as a student athlete of exceptional talent, she has also managed to balance her athletics with an outstanding academic record, receiving Academic All-Big Sky honors—a recognition given out to athletes who display academic excellence along with athletic accomplishments—three years running.

Gibson is majoring in health studies and currently completing the pre-nursing track heading into her senior year.

For her plans post-graduation, Gibson said she intends to remain in the Portland metro area and attend nursing school. “I would love to go to OHSU. I’ll have to come up with some backup schools, but I think going there would be pretty realistic and really awesome,” Gibson said. Initially opting to participate in pre-occupational therapy, she changed her mind after shadowing her mother at work.

This wasn’t the only time Gibson benefited from parental guidance. “My mom is a big athlete. She wanted me and my twin brother to play as many sports as possible.” Gibson has participated in volleyball and tennis and was an avid soccer player when she was younger. “I played since the time I was 5,” Gibson said, but she started focusing solely on cross country and track during her sophomore year. When it was time to decide what college she would call home—Gibson hails from Santa Cruz, Calif.—she was again fortunate enough to find some guidance, at least partially, from her parents.

“I actually found PSU after my moms visited here,” Gibson said. “They came up to Multnomah Falls—one of their friends was proposing to their partner—and they visited PSU and said that I needed to come visit here.” Some time later, Gibson visited the campus and “fell in love with this city.”

Gibson still finds ways to enjoy and explore Portland, and one particular local activity consistently garners her affection. “One of my favorite things to do with the team is going and finding new places to explore and to eat good food at,” she said. Part of the fun is made possible by a specific travel constraint shared by her and her teammates. “None of us have cars, so taking the streetcar or the MAX over there is always a little bit of an adventure.”

Regardless of what the upcoming year holds for Gibson, her passion for running is something that she will carry with her for life, saying she looks forward to the opportunity to run competitively after graduation.

Beyond competition, though, one aspect of running will keep her participating for the foreseeable future: “I love it. I love the community that running builds, and I think that I will stay connected with the sport for my whole life.”