Michelle Gallagher qualifies for Olympic Trials Marathon
Michelle Gallagher, 22, representing the Pamakids Running Club, qualified for the United States Women’s Marathon Olympic Trials by running a 2 hour, 43 minute, 30 second marathon. The Daly City resident, running her first marathon, placed 5th overall and 3rd American woman at the California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento on Sunday December 2, 2007. The 26.2 mile race started in Folsom and ended at the Capitol Mall in Sacramento. Her time, according to one listing, is the 30th fastest by an American woman in 2007.
The United States of America Track & Field (USATF) is the governing body for the sport of track & field in the United States. They, along with the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) will host the Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon in Boston, MA on Sunday April 20, 2008. The top 3 finishers at that race will represent the US at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. To qualify for the Trials, you must be a female US citizen who has run a marathon on a certified course in under 2 hours, 47 minutes. As of December 1, only 96 women had achieved the mark. At Sunday’s CIM, Gallagher was one of nine athletes to qualify for the Olympic Trials.
Gallagher ran a smart race, running consistent splits throughout the race. She was on 2:43 pace almost right from the very start of the race and she held that pace for the whole race. Her fastest mile was 6:03 and her slowest was 6:21. “It felt more relaxed than at practice,” said Gallagher, “We had a good group of runners who worked together to get a fast time.” Gallagher ran much of the race with fellow 22 year old Brooke Wells of San Francisco. Gallagher had almost twenty people cheering her on along the course, including her mom, dad, brother, coach, and Pamakid teammates. “At 18 miles, I asked her how she felt and she said fine,” said her coach Andy Chan, “I told her to surge a bit and she immediately did. That’s when I knew she was going to get the Olympic Trials time.”
Gallagher attended high school at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco, where Chan was her coach. In cross country she was league and section champion as a senior and placed 3rd at the State Championship Meet. In track & field, she was a 2-time league champion for 3200 meters (2 miles). Her fastest 3200 was 10:33.04 at the Arcadia Invitational in April 2003. That mark was the 15th fastest in the nation that spring. In her final high school race for the Fightin’ Irish she placed 4th at the State Meet in the 3200 meters. She also set high school bests of 4:56.1 (1600 meters) and 2:17.7 (800 meters).
After graduating from SHCP, she earned a full athletic scholarship to NCAA Division I, Iona College in New York. She competed for the Gaels for 4 years. In outdoor track & field she ran a 5000 meter best of 16:49.54, qualifying for the NCAA East Regional in 2004. She also won conference titles at three different distances (5000 as a freshman, 3000 as a sophomore and 1500 as a junior). In indoor track & field, she was a 4-time conference champion. In cross country she was a member of the Iona team that won back-to-back conference championships and in 2006 placed 2nd in the region and 20th at the NCAA Championships.
Gallagher graduated from Iona in June 2007 and returned to the Bay Area. She asked her former high school coach, Chan, to coach her again. Her goal was to run her first marathon in Seattle in November 2007. As part of her training she ran for the Pamakids Running Club at the Pacific Association Grand Prix Cross Country series. She won the Presidio Open in October and also placed 2nd twice and 3rd twice during the season. At the Cross Country Championships, she placed 4th. Overall for the season Gallagher placed 2nd and she led the Pamakids team to a 3rd place team finish.
Gallagher’s best race of the fall, prior to CIM, was the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon on October 14. At that race she ran 1:16:37 (a 7 minute personal record), coming in 12th woman, 4th American woman, and 1st Bay Area woman. As a result of that excellent race, she and Chan decided to change her goals for the marathon. “After Rock ‘n Roll we realized that she had a legitimate chance to get the Olympic Trials qualifying mark,” explained Chan. So instead of racing the Seattle Marathon, she switched to CIM, which is known for producing fast times.
And a fast time is just what she got. “When I realized that the halfway split that I needed was six minutes slower than what I ran at Rock ‘n Roll it made me feel confident that I could do it,” said Gallagher.” “Even back in high school,” said Chan, “I thought her best distance when she got older was going to be the longer races. When she asked me to coach her in June, I remember telling her that if she ends up liking the marathon she could do quite well…maybe even make the Olympic Trials someday. But I had no idea that someday would come so soon.”