Tue09162014

Schools

Don't call Gallagher a fair-weather runner: Los Altan braves snow, sleet & wind at Jr. Olympics

Los Altos resident Kieran Gallagher may have found snowshoes more appropriate than running shoes at the 2005 National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships.

The Dec. 10 meet was held in Smithfield, R.I., a day after a blizzard dumped more than a foot of snow in the area. The course was cleared by race day - except for a patch about 2-feet deep at the start - but the runners still had to deal with sleet and 70-mph winds.

While the winter conditions would appear to be a disadvantage for runners from warm-weather states like California, Gallagher wasn't too fazed by them.

"Not really," the 10-year-old said. "I used to live in Minnesota."

But Gallagher didn't run cross-country in Minnesota, where she lived until moving to Los Altos with her family three years ago. She took up the sport just last year when she joined the Palo Alto Lightning.

She hasn't run like a beginner, though. At the national, Gallagher finished 29th out of 213 competitors in the Bantam Girls (ages 8-10) division.

"I didn't finish as well as I hoped for, but I'm not disappointed and ashamed," said Gallagher, who two weeks earlier placed second at a regional meet in Fresno. "I did the best I could. I felt pretty good about it."

Although her time of 14 minutes, 21.90 seconds was her slowest in 3K races this season, Gallagher had never before run a course as challenging as the one at Smithfield's Bryant University.

"It was the hardest race I've ever run," the Castilleja School sixth-grader said. "It was hard because of the snow and because it was downhill at the beginning and uphill at the end."

Gallagher said the slick incline before the finish was especially tiring, yet she pushed as hard as she could. That's no surprise to Palo Alto Lightning coach Willie Young.

"She is a very tough 10-year-old," he said.

Young has marveled at Gallagher's talent and work ethic in cross country and as a distance runner on the Lightning track team. To Gallagher, participating in both sports allows her more opportunities to do what she likes best.

"I get to run and I like to run," she said. "I like working hard and the practices."

Gallagher, who trained three afternoons per week during the cross-country season, will take some time off before the Lightning's track season begins in February. These days, her afternoons are spent rehearsing her role in the upcoming school play.

Gallagher will surely sneak in a run here and there, no snowshoes required.

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