Anytime Buckeye’s Ryan Gallagher runs, it’s not unusual to see his mother, Vicki, waiting for him at the finish line.
That tradition will continue this weekend as the junior competes in the 3,200-meter run at the Division II state track meet in Columbus.
“It started when he was a freshman and he started to win races,” Vicki said. “We were surprised. We had no idea how fast he was or how much endurance he had. His Dad, his brothers and I would always try to be at the finish line just to tell him he had such a great race.
“Then he started to be the first one at the finish and it was like, ‘Oh, my God.”
Last Saturday, Gallagher overcame hot and humid conditions and a stacked field to win the 2-mile regional title in 9:51.65.
The only footsteps Gallagher could hear were of a proud Vicki, who ran almost as fast as her son in front of the first row of bleachers to get as close to finish line as she could.
“It never gets old,” she said. “None of the five of my boys, it never gets old with them, either. Whether it was baseball or it was soccer or it was wrestling. Now, it’s running.”
From soccer and baseball, Gallagher has tried just about every sport, but it wasn’t until his freshman year he realized his knack for distance running.
Dabbling in everything from the 200 to the 800 as a middle school student at St. Francis Xavier in Medina, Gallagher noticed he was build for distance.
“I figured out I could last a lot longer than people,” Gallagher said. “I wasn’t much for sprinting. I always got passed — well, I never was ahead.
“So I started in distance, and then I realized I had some endurance in me and I started capitalizing on that.”
Indeed he has as the reigning Gazette MVP in cross country finished sixth at the state meet in the fall and carried that momentum into the track season.
Gallagher is among Medina County leaders in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, highlighted by breaking a 30-year-old school record in 9:42.3 to win the Mapleton Night Invitational.
He went on to shatter 800 and 3,200 marks at the Patriot Athletic Conference Meet, along with taking first in the 1,600 and helping the 4×800 relay to a runner-up finish.
Gallagher qualified for last weekend’s Lexington Regional in three events, but scratched in the 1,600 on the meet’s final day to focus on the 3,200.
“We run a consistent mileage — about 50 miles a week,” he said of the last month of the season. “This past week, I think I got down to about 45 and I’ll probably go out at 45 again this week.
“You can’t taper too much or your legs will pretty much quit on you — at least in my experience.”
Buckeye distance coach Jon Brenanstahl noted when Gallagher sets his mind to something, he accomplishes it.
“What makes Ryan a good runner is that he’s very dedicated and very routined,” he said. “His mindset is to go out and push. He knows what times he needs to be at, but he would go online and look up research on other runners, so I think that just motivates him.
“He has good turnover. He’s a good athlete and that gives him an advantage.”
Saturday, Gallagher will take to the track at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium for this first time. His seed time coming into the race is seventh out of 16.
Unlike his approach last weekend at Lexington in which he kept an easy pace for 5-6 laps before kicking, Gallagher knows the battle will be a little different, especially if he wants to earn All-Ohio honors like he did in cross country.
“I can’t do that at state,” Gallagher said. “I’m going to have to go hard the whole time. I’m going to run to at least PR at state, if not get into the top eight.
“That’s been the goal from the beginning: Keep chalking up those All-Ohio medals.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.