Belle Harbor native Kerri Gallagher one step closer to Olympic dreams

By Patrick McCormack

Kerri Gallagher wanted to get out fast to start the Olympic Development Women’s Mile at the Penn Relays. The Belle Harbor native did just that and it was enough to win her a gold medal, going against some of the best runners in the country.

Gallagher covered the mile in 4:34.42, three seconds ahead of second-place finisher Sheila Reid (4:37.46), a former NCAA cross country champion who has run in the Olympics for Canada.

“Coach (Matt) Centrowitz and I talked the night before the race about going out fast and getting to the front of the field,” said Gallagher, who runs for Oiselle and New York Athletic Club. “In past years in this race, I’ve run conservatively in the beginning and ultimately took myself out of the race. This year I wanted to be in the mix and run a good pace from the start knowing there were some strong kickers on the start list.”

Winning the mile at the Penn Relays is a step in the right direction toward reaching her goal of competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But with the Olympics still a while away, Gallagher is looking to build off this win for the 2015 U.S. Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon from June 26-28.

“The whole year is set up to build toward the U.S. Outdoor Championships, so it is important to have these milestones, while remembering no individual race will make or break my season,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher started her career at Bishop Kearney High School in Brooklyn and then ran at Fordham University. Gallagher set Fordham Rams records in the 4×400 meter relay, indoor 800m, outdoor 4×800, and the sprint medley relay. Her time with the Bishop Kearney Tigers, running for coach John Lovett, and with the Rams and coach Tom Dewey shaped her as an athlete.

“When I got to Fordham, I learned collegiate racing is much different than high school. I had a similar progression, lowering my times each year and placing better at the conference championship each year as well,” Gallagher said.

Following her collegiate career, Gallagher took a job at Morgan Stanley. She left it shortly after and moved to Washington, DC, where she started as an assistant coach at American University and trained with Centrowitz. Though she failed to make the 2012 Olympics, she used the year as a learning experience.

“That year was disappointing to me, but it made me a better runner, a better coach, and I believe in some ways a better person. It would have been amazing to make the trials that year, but for me I think not making the standard turned out to be best in the long run,” she said.

Gallagher, whose brother Conor competed for Molloy College and whose twin sisters, Jackie and Tessie, ran for Bishop Kearney at this year’s Penn Relays, continues to make progress. Winning at the Penn Relays was just the next step of that journey toward an Olympic run.

“The 2016 Olympic Trials are still the long term goal for me, but for now I am focused on the season ahead of me,” Gallagher said. There are many steps I still need to take before getting focused on 2016, but I’m very happy with the direction I am going in.”

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