Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Craig’s Doors offers shelter to NCAA All-American athlete

Chris Gilchrist was an NCAA All-American track runner from Tulsa, Okla.

He graduated from Union High School there in 2005 where he competed in the 2002 USA Junior Olympics and set records in 200- and 400-meter events and relays. He was also an outstanding football player in high school, ranking among the top 40 high school players in Oklahoma as a defensive back, according to his Oklahoma University player’s bio.

After high school, Gilchrist became a Gator, committing to the University of Florida’s track team.

After about two years, he transferred to Oklahoma University and joined the track team for a little over a year.

Now, he’s homeless.

He spends his nights on a cot at the Craig’s Doors shelter in the basement of the First Baptist Church on North Pleasant Street.

It’s a place for a free meal and a warm spot to sleep during the cold February nights in Amherst.

He found his way to Amherst after embarking on a long trip, hopping buses from state to state across the country.

Gilchrist left Oklahoma University for what he called “personal reasons,” stating he was unsatisfied with the track team and wasn’t accomplishing what he wanted.

He had hopes of becoming a professional athlete.

He said although he left Oklahoma on his own good terms, that wouldn’t reflect so on paper because his grades weren’t up to par.

Gilchrist has been homeless for a few weeks, but said it feels like he’s been homeless since he was 12. He said he does not speak to anyone from his past, including his family.

He has regrets about choosing college track over football because he noticed there was more financial incentive in the football business. He ultimately chose track because he received better offers than football.

He was recruited by Iowa State University and University of Wyoming for football.

Although Gilchrist was talented, he said running didn’t come easy to him and that sports were mainly about mentality and confidence.

Gilchrist said during his time as an athlete he became “obsessed with being big” and that being an athlete drilled body size into his head.

“Muscle is powerful to me,” he said.

After Gilchrist left Oklahoma, he moved to Santa Monica, Calif. where he stayed with a friend and spent most of his time in Los Angeles trying to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. After a six- to eight-month stint in California, Gilchrist began his trek across the United States.

During his travels, he stopped in Seattle, Montana, Denver, Kansas City, Dallas and Florida. He said he stopped in Florida for a few weeks to pursue returning to University of Florida to play football.

Gilchrist then left Florida and ended up in New York, where he said all of his money was stolen from him, forcing him to hitch a free bus ride to Massachusetts. When asked how he ended up here, he said he was trying to get to Boston but ended up in Amherst.

He wanted to end up in Massachusetts due to what he saw as a state with “wholesome people and good schools.”

Gilchrist has been staying at the shelter on North Pleasant Street for around two weeks now.

“The food is excellent for a shelter, top of the line; the staff is the coolest,” he said. “Social services are the most caring people.”

Gilchrist said he enjoys being in Amherst and said he’s “seen interesting things, beautiful people, good people.” He said Amherst is better than being anywhere else because he said it’s a good community.

He also commended Amherst for being what he saw as an interesting college town with a lot of young people and having “creepy weather.”

Gilchrist said he will remain at the shelter until he can get a job, get back on his feet and possibly go back to school.

“Now I really want to go somewhere where I can reflect on myself,” Gilchrist said. Lately he has been interested in his body and health and said he wants to get back into shape.

He visited the University of Massachusetts campus and was enthralled by the duck pond, noting there were ducks covering the entire pond. He also expressed interest in enrolling at UMass some day.

“I’ve been in the worst situations that I didn’t need to be in,” said Gilchrist.

“I just want to be saved,” he said. “I want to be saved with a job, saved by belief.”

Nancy Pierce can be reached at [email protected]


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  • C

    Carlos PDec 30, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Gilz was a great dude. He was a teammate of mine at Florida, and I hate to hear this. It’s unfortunate he was unable to reach his goals as an athlete because he definitely had the talent.

    It would be great if you could send us a follow up on his current situation, as it would be nice to hear from him, as Willie mentioned.

  • W

    Willie PDec 27, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Gilchrist, or as I used to call him “gilliagan” was my college teammate/roommate at UF for those two years he was there. He’s a good guy, had a big heart…I hate this for him, he has plenty potential. It would be good to hear from him.

  • J

    Jackie BekkaSep 24, 2013 at 9:32 am

    You did an article on Chris Gilchrist. He was my son’s best friend and lived at our house. We miss him terribly and would love to get in touch with him. I wrote to Craig’s door and asked them to let Chris or “Gilz” know we are thinking of him and love him. Is there anyway you can do a followup on him and let us know how he is doing?
    Jackie Bekka

  • L

    Laura QuinnFeb 15, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Nice story, Nancy! Thanks for keeping the issues and the stories in people’s hearts and minds.
    Laura Quinn
    Exec. Dir.
    Craig’s Doors