By, Whit Anderson, Staff Writer
Manhattan cross country is eager to make their return for a full season this fall after the pandemic wiped out last year’s campaign. However, the return to normalcy also brings a change in leadership.
Kerri Gallagher, the team’s head coach since 2016, will now take the reins from Matthew Centrowitz as the director of the cross country program.
Gallagher, the runner, first made a name for herself at the 2016 Team U.S.A Olympic Trials. Her dedication to the sport has only strengthened over the years, including learning the ins and outs of coaching under Matt Centrowitz at American University and then Manhattan College.
“Working with Matt was a great experience and opened a lot of doors for me,” Gallagher said of Centrowitz’s role as a coaching mentor. “I’m so grateful for the time I had with him as his athlete and coaching with him. As the years went by and my role changed with our transition to Manhattan, it was cool to see how I went from working for him and learning from him to working collaboratively with him to build a program. We both had a lot of fun with that.”
The news of Centrowitz stepping down as director came as a surprise to some after only being hired by Manhattan in 2018. However, Gallagher made it clear the decision was in the best interest for all parties involved, paving the way for the next era of Manhattan cross country.
“It was not very surprising since we both knew the time would come at some point,” Gallagher stated. “The way we both looked at it, he is at the end of his coaching career and I’m at the beginning of mine. Without knowing exactly how long we would work together at Manhattan, we both knew in the long run we were preparing for the next step. I’m excited for him as he moves on to new ventures outside of college coaching.”
On top of being promoted to director, Gallagher was also appointed to the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Track and Field and Cross Country Committee. In this role, she will have major influence in track and cross country’s operations, which in turn will hopefully set up Manhattan runners with a better future.
“I’ll be working alongside some of the best coaches and administrators in the sport to work toward creating the best possible championship experience for the student-athletes of the NCAA,” Gallagher said of her expectations for the committee. “I am looking forward to building relationships, learning from my peers and contributing to the growth and development of the sport that has given me so much over the years.”
Although Gallagher now has two major responsibilities—directing the program and working for the committee—coaching this program will be at the forefront of Gallagher’s focus in the grand scheme of things.
On the women’s side, one name to look out for is Andria Scaglione. She had a great freshman year in making All-MAAC, as well as finishing first in every meet she ran in. Now a junior, Scaglione will likely be a common fixture among the top finishers at meets this season.
On the men’s side, Pelle Nogueira is a name to watch as he enters his final season as a graduate student. He was the Jaspers’ top finisher at the 8K MAAC Championships en route to earning All-MAAC honors last time out.
Other athletes to look out for include Liam Farrell, Michael Hennelly, Nicola Scaglione, Rory Graham, along with nine incoming athletes joining the cross country roster this season. Every runner will have a chance to make a name for themselves as the season progresses.
“I’m excited to get back to normal training and racing,” Gallagher said. “With all the uncertainty last year, we had to be very flexible and in some areas take the pressure off. I think now the team is ready to put some of that pressure back on and go after some big goals.”
The Manhattan College Cross Country Invitational will also be making a return this October after being canceled last Fall. This meet, held across the street at Van Cortlandt Park, hosts hundreds of high schools from all over the Northeast with thousands of young runners competing.
With such a big event, the planning process is never too early to get started on. In place of the late great Ed Bowes, the legendary Lou Vazquez will direct this meet and has a deal in place with HOKA to carry the weight for sponsorships.
Gallagher is another big name who will help oversee the annual meet, which has special meaning for her.
“The Manhattan College Cross Country Invitational is one of the biggest and most competitive high school races in the country,” Gallagher said. “It takes a lot of planning, dedication and creativity to put on such a large event.”