I think I will remember this decade as the decade I established myself as a successful coach. In the 90’s, I was still pretty competitive myself as a runner and I was a little more focused on my own running and racing than coaching. During the 90’s, I ran three marathons and set most of my PR’s. I also laid the groundwork for my coaching career (team manager at UCLA, asst. coach at Lowell, started Thursday night track workouts for the DSE), but it has been in the last ten years that I have made a bigger impact as a coach.
When the decade began I was 29 years old and had been a head coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory (SHCP) for just one and a half years. Although I had been coaching the Thursday night track workouts for five years, it was quite different – there was no Pamakid Runners club involvement and on average just eight to ten people were at each track workout.
Now as the decade ends, I am 39 years old and am in my twelfth year as head coach at SHCP. Thursday night track workouts have been going for fifteen years and we average 15-20 people at each workout. I am both President and Coach of the Pamakids and also coach many people privately.
I won’t rank my top ten coaching memories from this decade, but instead will list them in chronological order. If you are reading this as a word file, you can click on the hyperlinks for more details about the event.
I’d never really followed the discus much as a coach. Before 2000, a high schooler throwing the discus 140 feet was pretty darn good to me. That all changed with Tony. When Tony threw, the discus just soared and soared like a Frisbee. All season long meet officials didn’t believe me when I warned them that we had a kid who could throw the discus over their boundary flags. This was most apparent on an April evening at UC Davis. Tony nearly hit the official with his 182-11 toss (fourth best in the state at that point in the season). We had to help the official mark the throw because he was more focused on getting out of the way than spotting the landing of the throw. Tony went on to throw a best of 194-4 (I missed this throw because Shannon Rowbury had an 800 race at the same time) and placed sixth at the State Meet.
June 2001 – Shannon Rowbury winning the State Meet 800.
Shannon and I shared a lot of great moments when she was in high school (Arcadia 800 win, Outdoor Nationals win, State Champion in the 1600) but her first State Championship stands out in my mind as special above the others.
April 2002 – The Varsity Boys beating Mitty in a dual meet.
It had been at least ten years since SHCP’s Varsity Boys had won a dual meet. We targeted April 17, 2002 as our chance to end the streak. It was a back and forth battle and it all came down to our victory in the 4X400 Relay.
The dream of getting the boy’s team to State Meet started two years earlier. It was a tight battle between six schools for the four qualifying spots. Our theme was “Be a hero and let’s get to that big dance in Fresno.”
A week before the race I announced that I would run 7:20 pace for the first seven miles of the race to help people hit their goal of a 1:36 half marathon. I had a good-sized group of runners and I was really proud when everyone came in at or under their goal time. It was during this run, from mile four to six, that Sara Saba and I discussed how to go about fielding a Pamakid women’s cross country team in the near future. Less than three short years later, the Pamakids cross country team grew to include men and women, open and masters.
May 2007/May 2009 – Coaching the whole kid, not just the athlete.
A high school coach is tasked with more than making someone successful in sport. I am proud to have played a role in the development of two special people: James Mabrey (2007) and Tammia Hubbard (2009). Both of these individuals came to SHCP thinking that they were basketball players. They faced numerous challenges but through our hard work they were successful in school and ended their high school careers as league champions.
I was coaching Michelle in her first year after finishing college. After she ran a fast time at the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll half marathon, her goal changed from just running a marathon to going for a sub-2:47.
Everything happened fast from early-May to early-July. Shannon was home in San Francisco training for the Olympic Trials and I volunteered to help her in any way that I could. For the most part that meant meeting her at the track to help her do Coach John Cook’s workouts and talking to her about anything and everything. There was a bit of a media blitz as Shannon went from chasing the “A” standard to being the favorite to win. It was all a brand new experience for me – especially the priceless moment: watching the kids you coached in high school make the Olympics!
December 2009 – Seeing Pamakids succeed at CIM.
It was a wildly successful day for the Pamakids at CIM – all three relay teams placed second in their division (thanks in part to the now famous meet sheet). In addition there were numerous PR’s among the thirteen Pamakid marathoners and all four people that I was coaching achieved their goal of a Boston qualifier.
I knew that watching Michelle during the California International Marathon (CIM), at the pace she would be running was going to be a challenge. That’s why I was only half joking when I e-mailed Tower and asked him if he wanted to come. It’s why I was really excited when he found a flight and was willing to fly from Texas to spend a few hours with Michelle, Malinda, me, and some of the Pamakids in Sacramento for CIM.
Tower has a real knack for knowing what I am thinking or what I want to do…sometimes even before I know it. One of his high school classmates once said that he and I must “share a brain” (actually what she said was to imply that given our intelligence it must be only half a brain between us and we must be sharing it at that). Anyway, Tower and I have been together on the CIM course many times and I knew his presence would be a valuable addition to the crewing team.
The real key to our successful day was the “map session” we had Saturday night in the hotel. That’s when Malinda looked at the map and I was able to tell her what I wanted to do. She had refused to engage in any dialogue about my meet sheet the whole week leading up to CIM (unless you consider rolling one’s eyes dialogue….in which case we had lots of dialogue). Saturday night, Malinda, Tower, and I created what we believe to be the best CIM course map in the 25 year history of the race. We had to tape two AAA maps together with athletic tape to create our masterpiece. The course was highlighted in pink, the driving spots highlighted in yellow, and the mile marks (this was key) in black sharpie. Upon completing this map, we were all set and ready to crew. No wonder I woke up at 5:20am Sunday morning full of confidence.
One thing I vacillated about the whole week leading up to CIM was what to do at the beginning of the race. I wanted to be with Michelle to keep her relaxed at the start line. But I also knew it was important to get a mile split and a 2 mile split. I felt I needed to be at 2 miles in case stern directions about going out too fast needed to be given. But I worried that we wouldn’t have accurate watches on the course if we weren’t at the start line to hear the gun go off. I was also concerned about being on the course illegally with a bike or getting Michelle in trouble for having a pacer by running along side her.
In the end, I came up with the best possible plan given the parameters I was working with. Leah was at the start line with Malinda’s phone. Malinda, Tower, and I drove out to the boonies (sorry, Denis, I know you have friends that live there) to be at the 2.3 mile mark. From there, Tower ran back to the 1 mile mark and I ran back to the 2 mile mark. Right before the race started Leah (using Malinda’s cell phone) called me (speed dial #1) so I could hear the race start. Then I called Tower 2 minutes into the race (he had already set his watch to 2:00) and said go. Now we had two watches with the right time. Later in the car at the 20:00 minute mark, we synced Malinda’s watch.
With watches synchronized, Tower took the mile 1 split and called me to tell me what it was. Then he “casually” ran along side the 7:00 milers to get back to the car (as casually as he could seeing that it felt like a sprint to him and he was breathing really hard at the 1.5 mile mark on a marathon course – “it’s OK, I’m just doing the relay” he told a concerned onlooker). I got Michelle’s 2nd mile split and gave some instructions about relaxing and being on pace, not fast. As we ran to the car, Leah called to say she still had Malinda’s phone but couldn’t find us. Then she called back and told us to turn around because she was right behind us and wanted to hand us the phone (less weight without cell phone usually equates to 1.5 seconds/mile).
Then the crew started a routine that would continue for the next couple hours. Malinda was driving. I was shotgun, reading the map. Tower was in the backseat, updating a specially prepared excel spreadsheet on the laptop (which gave me final time projections). I would also ask questions like what the time was and what time we expected Michelle at various spots. Tower was always able to answer quickly, helping me determine where we would drive to next. We usually had an aggressive plan and a conservative plan to choose between, depending if we thought we could get to a spot in time to see her. By nature, I usually went aggressive.
It was very congested at the first relay exchange. That’s when I came up with cardinal rule #2 for crewing CIM (rule #1 is: stay to the north of the course). The new rule is: avoid relay exchange zones (unless you are driving a relay runner to their spot). Somehow we not only got parked and saw Michelle, the relay runners, and John, but we reunited with Margaret and Leah & Ellen, who had just run the lead-off leg of the relay. We now had three cars traveling together watching the race.
The next couple stops included some scary moments. It seems we all needed a bathroom and were constantly in search of one that would not cause us any delay. At one stop it looked like Malinda was going to either have to back the Explorer up 200 feet with oncoming cars or hop the curb. Fortunately the police started letting cars make u-turns. At another spot we needed to use alternate side roads to get out. We were held up in traffic once but the police officer finally let all three of our cars pass together as a caravan.
Tower started running forward or backward on the course when we parked so we could get an accurate mile split. Our map was invaluable because we always knew how far the next mile mark was and which direction to run. Sometime during this rush of activity, Margaret, who was taking photos at every stop, exclaimed, “I’m having so much fun following you guys to watch the race!” I was in game face mode so it wasn’t until later that I re-called hearing her say that. Speaking of game face, I asked Michelle around mile 10 what her last mile split was and she didn’t answer me. So I asked again, this time louder. Still no answer. As I was about to yell out my question a third time, one of the women running with her decided to answer for her so that I would shut up and leave them alone.
At mile 18, I asked Michelle how she felt; she nodded and said fine. So I told her to pick it up a little bit and she immediately surged. I thought to myself if she can do that now at mile 18, she’s going to be fine. As we headed back to the cars, I told the others that she was going to get the time. That’s when I started to feel confident.
The confidence must have led me to make the only two crewing tactical errors of the day. I guess I was excited and totally forgot that Malinda and I were supposed to be driving to mile 20, while Leah and Ellen went to pick-up Tower at mile 19. Next thing I knew all three cars were at mile 19. We got to see Michelle but now we were on this tiny road and it was going to take us awhile to get back to somewhere to cheer again. In my panic, I led us to a dead-end street.
Now we were really behind. I got out of the car near the relay exchange at mile 20.4 and told the cars to meet me at mile 21. I got on the course and realized Michelle had already passed. So I started running in hopes of catching up. When I noticed that the pack of women directly in front of me were running slower than Michelle was and yet I was not catching and passing even them, I decided to give up and start calling for pick-up. I ran a couple blocks away from the course so they could pick me up. Leah and Ellen stayed there to cheer the relay teams and other marathoners while the other two cars veered away from the course to get on the freeway to get over the river and into downtown.
The plan was to go to the finish but as we exited the freeway, Malinda and Tower kept asking if we should go back to mile 24 or hit mile 25. I realized that I hadn’t talked to Michelle since mile 19. And a lot can happen between mile 19 and 24 in your first marathon. Screech. We made a quick turn and intersected the course at 27th and L St. I didn’t know what mile mark it was for sure so didn’t really know when to expect her. Malinda and Margaret took Margaret’s car and headed to the end so they would be sure to see the finish. I kept thinking I should try to tell her how far it is or how many more minutes she had to go (since those numbers would hopefully be good news now). It seemed like forever waiting at that intersection and I got jumpy again. When I finally saw her, my watch read 2:33 so I said, “you have 14 minutes and it’s less than 2 miles. You’re going to make it.”
Then Tower and I jumped in the car and headed to the finish. Of course this took longer than expected and we had no idea where to park. As we sat at a red light for a minute, the race clock kept ticking. With each second she was another step closer to the finish. I didn’t think we would make it. We parked off of 14th St and I sprinted towards the capitol. The security wouldn’t let me go all the way to the finish but Malinda called me and read off the clock time as Michelle finished. I couldn’t see her through the masses of bodies but being able to see the finish line and the finish line clock and having Malinda tell me where she was made it seem like I saw it.
YAY! Michelle qualified for the Olympic Trials.
And WHEW! We managed to drive around the CIM course to crew for her.
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.”