Saturday afternoon will mark the last time Quinn Gallagher and Nick Perkins will represent their respective schools in a cross country meet; however, their impacts will echo well into the future. Throughout the last four years, both young men have thoroughly overhauled their schools’ record books. Gallagher has taken the conference championship twice and is the reigning Hamilton County champion. Perkins has won Roncalli’s only two individual sectional and regional championships and was a tenth of a second away from winning the conference this year. Both have been All-Conference each year of the Circle City’s existence. Beyond these accomplishments, they have set the tone and provided an example of what their programs should aspire to be after they depart.
In both cases, it was evident early that Gallagher and Perkins would be special runners. For Roncalli’s Jeff Buckley, his first revelation came during Perkins’s freshman season.
“After his first race in the low 18’s his freshman year, he then continued to run low 17:00 times during the month of September. Finishing third in the freshman county meet and then winning the 3200 in the freshman county track meet in the spring was the indicator he could be a special runner,” said Buckley.
Tom Gallagher, Quinn’s father and the Guerin Catholic cross country and track coordinator, started to realize his had incredible potential while Quinn was still running in CYO events.
“When Quinn started running in fifth grade, he was your typical runner in CYO…middle of the pack trying to figure out running. As he progressed in sixth and seventh grade, he started to gain mental strength and learned how running fast hurts,” Gallagher said. “I think Quinn started to realize he could be an elite runner when after his freshman season of track, he went to Sacramento, California and came from behind to earn his first National Championship in the 2K Steeplechase. This made him start to realize that he could run on a higher level.”
It did not take long for him to reach that level. As a sophomore, Gallagher qualified for the state finals, where he ran a great race, but came up just short of his goal.
“Finishing 26th place at the state meet as a sophomore was a fork in the road for Quinn,” his father recalled. “Missing All-State by one place can be devastating for a young runner, or it can be turned into a point of motivation. Quinn used it as motivation to be in the top 25 (All-State) his junior year.”
In 2017, Gallagher shaved almost 30 seconds off of his 2016 time to finish 16th, earning a place on the champions’ podium and the aforementioned All-State status.
Last year also marked the first time Perkins qualified for the event. He finished in the middle of the pack but gained some valuable insight into what to expect this year.
There are signs Saturday’s trip to Terre Haute will be considerably different. His 3rd place finish at last week’s semi-state meet saw him cut almost 16 seconds off of last year’s time and defeat two of his main rivals for the first time. On the year, he is 1,149-5 against all competition.
The key to Perkins’s improvement has been consistency.
“Perhaps Nick’s best asset is his availability,” offered Roncalli assistant coach Rob Brown. “I bet he’s missed less than 10 workouts combined with cross country and track over the last four years. There’s an old expression about the best ability is availability.”
“His success is due to his consistent work ethic all four years, in and out of season. He trusts his own ability and his coaches. He has always given his very best during the most painful times of any race,” added Buckley.
“Another one of his great assets is his consistency,” said Brown. “(Perkins) started to emerge as our #1 runner at the end of his freshman year, then has been our #1 ever since. Over the last three years, he’s raced 36 times and has 11 wins, six runner-ups, 27 top 5s and 31 top 10s. The ability to deliver a top-line effort time after time, while shouldering the load of being the team’s best runner is much more complicated than he makes it look.”
Both Gallagher and Perkins have handled their leadership positions with grace and resolve. They lead by example, modeling for others the level of effort necessary to attain greatness while also keeping a humble heart. Their commitment helps keep their teammates accountable while their genuine interest in their teammates’ development has built a true sense of camaraderie.
“(Quinn’s) team first attitude has really changed the attitude of the team,” said Tom Gallagher. “We used to have some guys on the team head off on long runs and either play on the neighborhood playground, walk, or hang out at someone’s house. With the leadership that Quinn has helped instill into the team, our boys’ team gets after it on long runs and workouts. Taking the younger runners under his belt and helping them realize their potential has helped set the tone for the younger runners to be able to share that knowledge and example with the next group of runners that will come through the program.”
Brown echoed similar thoughts on Perkins.
“You would never know from his demeanor that he is the most accomplished runner in school history. He’s a quiet kid by nature. His personality is such that he’s not a vocal leader, but his leadership comes from his work ethic and the effort the guys see him bring every day. He’s appreciative of his teammates, as often after races, the first questions he asks are about teammates times, PRs, etc.”
Do not let their quiet, easy-going demeanors fool you. They are fierce competitors who have been building up to tomorrow’s race all year, even if their approaches to their senior year have been a bit different. Perkins has concentrated on pushing himself beyond his perceived limits, while Gallagher has been working through scenarios.
“Nick’s racing is not conditional. His strength is the simplicity of his racing, challenge yourself and go. No stunts, no gimmicks,” Buckley said.
“His best asset as a racer is his ability to handle discomfort,” added Brown. “He’s not afraid to put himself out there early and deal with the discomfort that follows. Last week’s semi-state was a prime example. He went out and separated from the pack in the first 200 yards and held off everyone in the chase group, except Hodges, who caught him with 20 yards to go.”
The Gallaghers have spent most of the year specifically preparing for Saturday.
“This year has changed the focus from running for places at many of the meets to creating scenarios in races that require Quinn to overcome a setback in order to prepare him for the State Championship, Nike, and New Balance Championships,” Coach Gallagher explained. “At the Conference Championship, Quinn helped pace his teammates through the first mile and then had to come from behind to barely edge out a great race from Nick Perkins. At the State Meet Preview in Terre Haute, Quinn started behind our team and the field, coming through the mile marker in 95th place and then moving up the field to finish 6th overall. We are hoping that having to approach all of these races from a standpoint of working through adversity will pay off at the State Championship this coming weekend.”
Saturday will serve as payday for all of the hard work and planning that have gone into the last four years. As luck will have it, Gallagher and Perkins will start their final race together side-by-side in Box 22. The 11th and 14th ranked runners in the state will do their best to go out on a high note and add one final chapter to their already formidable legacies – legacies that will remain impactful for years to come.