Olympic Hopes Alive for Kearney HS Grad

The Gallagher sisters, from left, Kerri, Tessie, Jackie and Mary, are pictured at the Rockapulco 5K in 2014 with their niece, Adriana Gallagher, center. (Photo courtesy Kerri Gallagher)

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are fast approaching, and with continued dedication and plenty of prayer, a local track star may just be heading to Brazil.

Kerri Gallagher, a graduate of Bishop Kearney H.S., Bensonhurst, who grew up in St. Francis de Sales parish, Belle Harbor, will be hard at work the next few months attempting to qualify for the Games.

She specializes in the 1500-meter run, and come next summer, she will need to finish in one of the top three spots in Olympic qualifying races to represent her country on the world stage.

But all of that aside, it’s been Gallagher’s Catholic faith and upbringing that have allowed her to realize her athletic gifts from God and put those to great use.

Running track wasn’t always on the agenda for young Kerri, as she participated in Catholic Youth Organization soccer, basketball and swimming while a student at St. Francis de Sales. Even at Bishop Kearney, she tried out for and made the junior varsity basketball team as a freshman.

Starting her sophomore year though, Gallagher began running cross-country in the fall, since she always had great speed no matter which sport. She again played basketball that year, but by the time she was a junior and senior, her sole focus was three straight seasons of track.

With the guidance of her high school coach John Lovett, Gallagher excelled in competitions for Bishop Kearney, setting many school records in the process. Upon graduating in 2007, she continued her track career at Fordham University, the Bronx.

In college, she started running the 800-meter but gradually progressed to the mile and 1500-meter. She of course had her share of success, but it was there that she began to understand that track was not exactly like most other sports.

“These individual sports, it’s cool because you can do well without winning a race,” Gallagher said. “In basketball, you either win or lose the game. With track, you’re able to progress and set those mid-level goals as you go along.”

Upon her graduation with a math degree in 2011, Gallagher began working for Morgan Stanley. However, soon after she began, she had a conversation about continuing her track career with Matt Centrowitz, the head track coach at American University, Washington, D.C., who went to Power Memorial Academy, Manhattan, with Lovett.

Gallagher said she did not know much about the professional world of running after college, but something inside her clicked and gave her the mindset that this was the right thing to do.

“I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” she said. “I had gotten better every year pretty much since I started running, so I decided to give it a shot.”

She began as a volunteer track coach at American while also beginning her training under Centrowitz, a two-time U.S. Olympic runner. Soon after, she was elevated to a part-time coach and is now a full-time assistant for the program.

Though she had only been training a short time, she had her sights set on making the Olympic trials for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. She may have fallen short, but she got a taste what the competition would be like with another set of Olympic games four years away.

Rigorous Regimen

By sticking to a rigorous training regimen over the next few years, Gallagher found herself at the U.S. Championships in June in Eugene, Ore. In the 1500-meter, she finished in third place at 4:15.81, setting herself up for a spot in the IAAF World Championships later in the summer in Beijing.

But even with that finish, she still had to achieve a world standard time of 4:06.50 in order to represent her country in China. And sure enough, a few weeks after her third-place finish, Gallagher ran a 4:03.56 in her first race of a European invitational tournament in Italy, cementing her place on the U.S. team.

Heading to Beijing, Gallagher said she was more excited than nervous to represent her country in competition for the first time. Her goal was to reach the final race, and though that did not happen, she had an impressive showing with a top 24 finish in her first true international competition.

“I’m proud of the way I raced, and I know I can take that experience and work on that beat that I felt I just didn’t have this year,” she said. “It was really valuable for me heading into the Olympic year and in my own personal development on the track and off.”

So next up for Gallagher will be her quest to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. Her 4:03.56 will likely be fast enough for both the world and Olympic standard times, so now it will take a top three finish to get her to Rio.

And her plan moving forward? Keep it simple.

“The biggest thing is staying healthy,” she said. “That will be my main focus. This is the latest I’ve ever competed.”

Though her name has been gradually disappearing from the Bishop Kearney record books – thanks to her younger sister Mary, Class of 2009, and her twin sisters Jackie and Tessie, currently seniors at the school – Kerri has the distinction of being the first of the sisters to have a shot at competing for her nation in the Olympics.

And by continuing to rely on her faith, we hope Kerri is packing her bags for Rio de Janeiro real soon.

Contact Jim Mancari via email at

3 thoughts on “Olympic Hopes Alive for Kearney HS Grad

  1. Just to say Tessie and Jackie have been the best track captains ever since I got on the team at Bishop Kearney. They are so supportive and they care so much. I will really miss them next year. Good luck to the family. I will keep the whole family in my prayers.