Ryan Gallagher doesn’t love the 50-mile training weeks, but he can tolerate them because he knows what is waiting at the end.
As much as he wants to improve his 3.1-mile time on the stopwatch, what the Buckeye High senior really thrives on is competing against — and beating — other runners.
The repeat pick as Gazette MVP in boys cross is always, as top-level athletes like to say, “in it to win it.”
“I enjoy running, but I love racing,” Gallagher said. “That’s the main difference. I can get through training because I enjoy racing so much. I’m all in it for the competition.”
Success has followed, as Gallagher earned first-team All-Ohio honors this year after finishing seventh at the Division II state meet in 16:00.7. He was up front for the first 2 miles but tired at the end of a race won by St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Mick Iacofano, who grew up in the same Liberty Woods housing development as Gallagher.
As a junior, Gallagher also earned first-team All-Ohio accolades, finishing sixth in 15:59.75 en route to Gazette MVP honors. He was 36th as a sophomore (16:41.7) and 72nd as a freshman (17:41.12), when he also earned first-team All-Gazette honors in the sport.
Toss in a fourth-place finish in the 3,200 meters at the 2012 D-II state track meet, plus a Lexington Regional title in that event and Patriot Athletic Conference crowns in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, and it’s easy to see why the 5-foot-8, 135-pound Gallagher was Gazette MVP in boys track as a junior.
“I enjoy the training to a point,” Gallagher said. “My teammates make it fun, and that’s a lot of it. Once you have good teammates, it all meshes. Plus, I enjoy making my body stronger because it pays off in races.”
Gallagher has always been willing to meet challenges head-on, and that’s not just true on the track or cross country course.
Hoping to be accepted into the United States Naval Academy, the 18-year-old carries a 4.38 grade-point average, scored a 31 on the ACT and is president of National Honor Society. He is considering majoring in biology but hasn’t ruled out going into pre-med.
Gallagher also became an Eagle Scout in August, serves as a mentor to freshman students at Buckeye and is involved in several volunteer groups at school.
That inner drive carried over into sports, where Gallagher tried soccer, baseball, hockey and gymnastics — “Everything short of football, basically,” he said — before settling on running.
“He’s very focused and driven on wanting to do his best,” Buckeye cross country coach Jon Brenenstuhl said. “He likes to win, and that drives him.
“I think he’s going to improve quite drastically (in college). He’ll up his mileage, have more competition around him and push himself even more.”
Wanting to win the state championship probably cost Gallagher a few spots in the final standings this year because he tried to stay with the leaders early and eventually tired, but the satisfaction of knowing he gave it his best shot far outweighs the possibility he might have been able to place third or fourth.
“I try not to think about what could have been,” Gallagher said. “On that day, I just happened to not do as well. I don’t have any regrets. I tried to win, so I don’t get hung up on it.”
There was some irony in the fact Iacofano won the title, as he and Gallagher were teammates at St. Francis Xavier in seventh and eighth grade.
“I was always decent, but I didn’t really want to race or anything like that until my freshman year,” Gallagher said. “I was playing second fiddle to the other guy on my junior high team.
“We grew up together (Iacofano’s family has since moved) and I’m still really close with him. He’s only beaten me a couple of times in high school, but I just didn’t have a very successful end to the cross country season like he did.”
Gallagher will now turn his attention to pursuing a state track title, but he knows it won’t be easy because Samuel Prakel of Versailles is back after winning the 1,600 and 3,200 last season.
Still, that’s what will drive Gallagher when he’s putting in mile after mile in the months leading up to track season.
“He’s gutsy,” Brenenstuhl said. “That’s what you need to be a successful runner. Some days you have it and some days you don’t.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.