Ryan Gallagher knew he was on to something big as a freshman last year. He just didn’t know how big.
The No. 3 for Buckeye’s middle school team in boys cross country, he routinely finished behind Brian Brennan and Mick Iacafano.
Then high school hit and he set a personal record better than Brennan, who went to Walsh Jesuit, before beating Iacafano, who went to St. Vincent-St.
Mary, at the state meet.
“It was a total surprise to me and everyone else on the team,” Gallagher said. “I knew I had gotten better. I just tried to put i on the field and it turned out the right way for me.”
It also boosted his confidence tenfold. A couple of second-place finishes last year served notice that Gallagher was going to be around on the high school scene for some time to come, but his time of 17:41.12 at Scioto Downs peaked his interest.
So he concentrated his efforts on getting better and he comes into the 2010 season as a marked man, though he’s only a sophomore.
Not that Gallagher, who turned 16 on Wednesday, is letting any of it get to his head.
“Every time you walk on the field, there are five or six people that can destroy you,” he said. “You just try to keep your confidence and get better.
“What pushes me is that feeling when you’re about halfway through the race and you’re following someone.You get behind them and hear them breathing heavy.You wait for them to slow down a bit and you overtake them and finish the race ahead of them. It’s a great feeling to have.”
Gallagher is a great runner to have and Bucks coach Shirley Van Epp— no stranger to the cross country scene— can attest to that.
His PR time of 16:43.04 ranks sixth among Medina County returning letterwinners. But it’s his attitude that shines through.
“Ryan’s the complete package,” Van Epp said. “He’s hard-working in every aspect of his life.
“He’s really focused. He’s worked with a lot of our kids in the past. He puts in the hard work and he’s talented enough.”
Gallagher’s preparation started two weeks after track season ended and the sophomore hasn’t stopped since.
While his first official time will come next week when the Bucks kickoff the Patriot Athletic Conference Preview on Monday, Gallagher is ready to turn some heads.
“I feel great coming in,” Gallagher said. “But I put a lot of mileage in over the summer. I’m hoping I can keep it going.” That should be no problem according to Van Epp. The 10th-year coach has had her share of great athletes.
If Gallagher can keep it up, Van Epp sees big things on the horizon.
“When runners like Ryan come through, they have that inner drive,” Van Epp said. “When my runners leave my program I hope they have improved and been competitive.
“Some of them get scholarships, but my ultimate goal is that they love to run. My job with Ryan is getting him to state, watching him drive to the top and going on.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.