Class of 1982
Most high school track and field athletes are fortunate if they have one good coach leading up to and through their prep careers. Kim Gallagher had not only outstanding mentors in Larry Wilson when she joined the Ambler Olympic Track Club as a youth in Fort Washington, Pa., and then Jack Fuery as a prep at Upper Dublin High School – but also an older brother, Bart, who was as much guardian angel and, perhaps “life coach,” as anything. Kim was taken from us much too young, but what gifts she gave us with her prodigious middle-distance talent and drive with the support of “Team Gallagher.”
Gallagher ran along behind her brother as a 7-year-old to Amblers practices in the early 1970s. By age 8, she had run a 5:37 mile. By her freshman year in 1979, Gallagher was running national-class times from 800 (2:07.6) to 5,000m (16:34.7) – the latter 2nd fastest ever by a prep at that point. But the highlight was her Penn Relays mile victory in 4:49.2.
In 1980 as a soph, Gallagher made it to the semis of the Olympic Trials, running 4:25.2 for 1,500. She continued to move up the all-time lists from 800 to 3,000. As a junior the following year, she smashed her first HSR – a 2:01.82 800 – and got her 2nd Penn win, this time in the 1,500.
There were injury issues early in her senior year, 1982, and Gallagher didn’t run any individual events at state – but she had a wonderful state meet with her Upper Dublin teammates anyway, anchoring the first sub-9:00 4×800 in prep history – 8:58.43 – and finishing off a crazy, come-from-behind 4×400 victory over Dawn Sowell and Chester HS. She finished with 12 PIAA state titles.
That summer, however, Gallagher reached a new peak and, at the Olympic Sports Festival, authored a jaw-dropping 2:00.07 high school record – one that wasn’t beaten until 2013 and Mary Cain’s sub-2:00. She also ran then-#2 all-time 4:36.24 mile and a HSR 4:16.6 1,500 en route.
Gallagher headed to U. of Arizona, but things didn’t work out and she shifted gears to L.A. to train under Chuck DeBus. It could have hardly been a better training ground for the 1984 Olympic Trials and Games, right there at the Coliseum. Gallagher’s dream was to make the team, above all else, and she did so with flying colors, winning the 800 in a PR 1:58.50. Weeks later, she took the silver with 1:58.63.
Four years later, overcoming illnesses and ailments, Gallagher returned to make the 1988 team, then captured bronze in the Seoul Olympic 800 – her 1:56.91 PR just .01 off Mary Slaney’s American Record.
That was her last hurrah; trying to come back for the ’92 Games was too much. Stomach cancer in 1995 was an illness she couldn’t beat and then she passed due to a stroke in 2002 at age 38. For more than a decade, though, her star burned as bright as any young distance runner in U.S. history and she’ll never be forgotten.
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Did You Know?
For 30 years, Kim Gallagher’s range reigned supreme among prep girls distance runners, from a 2:00.07 800 PR to 16:34.7 in the 5,000.