by Trevor Wilson
Twenty-sixth. One place away from All-State honors. This was how last cross country season ended for Guerin Catholic runner Quinn Gallagher. An amazing sophomore season finished just shy of his desired outcome. Undaunted, he went back to work with dreams of returning to the state finals and leaving no doubt he is among Indiana’s elite runners. The next eleven months would be filled with ups and downs. From narrowly missing qualifying for the state track meet in the 4 x 800 to winning his second national championship in the steeplechase, Quinn continued to grind and lead by example. As this year’s Sectional quickly approaches, it appears all of his hard work and perseverance is about to pay off.
Quinn did not always dream of running glory. Like many young men in CYO programs around the city, he fancied himself as a football player. After breaking his arm before his third grade season and not seeing regular playing time as a fourth grader, he decided his frame may be better suited for cross country. Even then, his future success was not immediately foreshadowed.
“We keep a board at OLMC (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel) of everyone who runs for us. We often look back at Quinn’s times and laugh,” shared Tom Gallagher, Quinn’s dad and the Director of Cross Country and Track at Guerin Catholic. Quinn’s times were not terrible, but they were not anything special either. Through hard-work and exposure to some unique opportunities, things would begin to change in his middle school years.
One key component to his success was sharing a roof with a talented coach. After moving from the south side of Chicago, Tom began attending Clay Middle School in Carmel. His running career began when his buddies coaxed him out for cross country in the fall of his seventh grade year. He went on to become a member of Carmel’s 1993 State Championship Cross Country team and an All-State hurdler. He was able to parlay these successes into a scholarship at the University of Indianapolis. After earning All-Conference honors, he began to coach middle school cross country and track back at Carmel Clay. He went on to spend time at Carmel High and Brebeuf before beginning a ten-year stint at Cathedral. From there, he transitioned to Guerin Catholic in 2009.
Along with these professional responsibilities, Tom volunteered his time with grade school programs. He has directed OLMC’s cross country and track programs for the past seven years. On top of this, he organized a United States Track and Field Association club team. The Northside Saints mainly consist of the best CYO runners on the north side of Indianapolis. The team has enjoyed a great amount of success and has done a great deal to develop the talent now being showcased at Guerin Catholic, Brebeuf, and Cathedral.
The Saints helped to expose Quinn to some of the best runners around his age. He was able to pick their brains and watch how they prepared and executed their game plans. Competing with and against such a high level of competition forced him to push himself to improve and learn the finer nuances of his craft. These efforts were rewarded with an invite to the weeklong USTFA Developmental Camp in Colorado Springs. While there, he listened to speakers teach about advanced nutrition and mental preparation. As stated earlier, one of the payoffs from this has been Quinn’s back-to-back national championships in the steeplechase.
With his junior season winding down, Quinn appears to be poised to make a run at another state finals appearance. He started the year off by winning the Joe Harvey Circle City Conference Championship on his home course. He followed this up with an impressive second place finish at the All-Catholic Championships. His actual times are looking good as well. Three weeks ago, he posted a time of 15:36.8 at the Savings Bank State Preview Meet in Terre Haute. This is the site of the State Championship meet where he ran a 16:20.5 last year. To put this in perspective, 15:36.8 would have meant a second place finish in last year’s final. The goal of a top ten finish would seem to be there for the taking although seventeen runners who finished ahead of him last year will be back (to start sectionals).
While Quinn would be excused for being insular and singularly focused on his goals, he is quite the opposite. He is well aware of his leadership position and the impact he can have on those around him. When asked what he wanted his legacy to be, he stated, “That I was an extremely hard worker, a good leader, was nice to everyone, and very inclusive.” He spends time talking to the younger runners, sharing the lessons his experiences have given him. He also gives back through coaching with his father at OLMC and serving as a Knight (Knights are high school-aged altar boys who provide service to the parish as needed). Oh, and he is currently number one academically in his class. He has an interest in becoming an aero-space engineer and is considering Notre Dame and the Air Force Academy.
This weekend brings the Golden Bear Invitational in Shelbyville on a fast track Quinn set his current PR on. It would not be surprising to see that number come down. With health and a bit of luck, he is set to make the jump from state qualifier to All-State finisher this year. Regardless of the next month’s outcomes, Quinn is a shining example of what a Circle City Conference athlete should strive to be: a dedicated and determined leader, who works hard in the classroom, and possesses a servant’s heart.