By John Jackson, Staff Writer
At the end of the Spring 2016 semester, Manhattan College’s Athletic Department had a task of finding a new head coach for its men’s and women’s cross country team, including both the middle distance and distance running programs.
The vacancy was filled by an elite runner in Kerri Gallagher.
Gallagher graduated from Fordham University in 2011 after a highly successful college running career.
In her time with the Rams she won four Atlantic 10 titles, won the Hobbes family award as the top female student ¬athlete, achieved ESPN The Magazine’s All-District Honors, set six school records, set two Atlantic 10 records, was a five ¬time team MVP and will ultimately be enshrined in Fordham’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017.
After Fordham, Gallagher went on to American University as an assistant coach for the next five years.
While there, she also pursued her own running career before coming to Manhattan College.
“In that five years, I think I balanced learning the challenges of coaching while running pretty well,” said Gallagher. “So when this opportunity came up to take over as head cross country coach at Manhattan, I saw it as a great opportunity for both my running and to bring my experiences … to this group of athletes.”
Those five years at American University for Gallagher included coaching with and being coached by two¬ time Olympian Matt Centrowitz Sr. Centrowitz Sr. ran in the 1976 Olympics and was set to run again four years later, but did not as the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics.
“My coach Matt Centrowitz Sr. is probably one of the best in the country and really is great at developing athletes,” said Gallagher. “Teaching you not just how to be a better runner, but what it takes to learn the sport and understand it.”
Gallagher has ran and done well in many high profile races in the last few years.
She has ran in three U.S. Championships and had just recently made the semifinals at the U.S. Olympic trials. She won the Penn Relays mile run in 2015, came in second in the Wanamaker Mile at the 2016 Millrose Games and is a record ¬holder and three ¬time champion at the Army Ten Miler.
Regarding 1500 meter races, she has represented the United States at the IAAF World Championships in 2015 and came in third at the USATF Outdoor Championships in 2015.
The third place finish at the USATF Outdoor Championships made her qualify for the World Championships in Beijing, China later in 2015.
For her student athletes, knowing about all her accolades and experience as a runner has an impact on them.
“I think that just makes our training ten times better and it brings us to another level,” said Manhattan cross country runner Kelly Gorman.
“It’s really inspiring because she can run with us. We never had a coach that can run with us. She’s in shape and she’s run very serious times so I’m excited to see what we all can do.”
Fellow cross country runner John Dove echoes Gorman’s sentiments as well as mentioning the possible impact that Gallagher’s hiring can have on the cross country program itself.
“It’s great because I feel like that’s a lot of exposure to our team,” said Dove. “So if people realize we have a professional runner as our coach, maybe that will bring in more high profile recruits. You can’t really get better than a professional runner’s training so if we get similar to the same thing, only good things can happen.”
Both Gorman and Dove were on the committee that made the decision to hire Gallagher.
While they were tasked with a big decision, they are beyond satisfied with their choice.
“I think it’s great,” said Dove referring to the hire.
“I think it brings a little bit of diversity to the team, which is something that we really need and we couldn’t have really have found somebody better in the predicament that we were in.”