Competing in a collegiate sport with the challenge of classes, homework, papers, practice and competition is tough, and by the end of the season many student-athletes welcome a break from the everyday grind.
Senior geography major Pat Gallagher's first three years at Geneseo, however, were spent in nearly year-round competition as a member of both the men's soccer team and the men's track team.
Gallagher said the chance to play two sports in college was a big reason behind his decision to come to Geneseo. "I was looking at Delaware, Villanova, Georgetown, [all Division I programs] but they all wanted me to choose just one sport and when I came here the coaches were okay with me doing both." If you asked those coaches today, however, they might have had a different opinion as injuries decimated the early part of Gallagher's career.
During his freshman year Gallagher tore his anterior cruciate ligament and missed his first season on both the soccer and track squads. After making a full recovery, Gallagher played periodically on the soccer team during his sophomore year but then pulled his hamstring when he was attempting his first long jump of the season during a track meet.
"I loved jumping in high school and I convinced [head coach Dave] Prevosti to let me try and I pulled it just running down to jump," he said. Then, Gallagher tore his meniscus in the fall of his junior year, putting an end to his soccer career.
Despite this string of injuries, Gallagher said he had no regrets for playing both sports. "I think it helped me a lot," he said. "I was in probably the best shape I've ever been in my sophomore year during the outdoor track season." This year he said he decided not to play soccer and put his focus solely on track, a choice that has paid off immensely.
Along with helping the men's track team to win the 2010 indoor SUNYAC championship, Gallagher now owns five all-time school records for track and field, four of which were set this past season. Along with his records as part of the 4x400-meter relay and distance medley relay teams, he set the fastest time for a Geneseo athlete in both the 400- and 500-meter races.
Gallagher said that, for him, the hardest part of running is the mental aspect. "Running when you're not competing can get a little monotonous," he said. "I really enjoy competing, going out every week trying to beat my time from last week."
If Gallagher had to pick a favorite event, however, he said that the 4x400-meter race would be his pick. "I really enjoy chasing people," he said, "Plus, you know that there are three other guys counting on you to have a great race."
Gallagher said that pressure is a big part of what drives him to be his best. He will compete at the NCAA Division III championship meet in Greencastle, Ind. this weekend, and said he's nervous before every race.
"I think it helps me really, I use it to do my best and I just worry about running well," he said. "It keeps me focused." Gallagher said his nervousness was a big part of what helped propel him and the rest of the distance medley team to the best distance medley relay time in the country last month during a meet at Boston University.
A competitive drive to be the best is what he expects to catapult him and the rest of the team to a conference championship for the outdoor season. Gallagher said he's excited to get outside and that the highlight of the spring will be the Second Annual Geneseo Open, which will be held April 24.
"I'm looking to qualify for nationals again and it'll be nice not to get one a bus and have the chance for my friends to come watch me compete," Gallagher said.