The last name “Gallagher” appears quite often in the Bishop Kearney H.S., Bensonhurst, track record book.
Over the next four years, that will likely stay the same, but the first names are certainly bound to change.
Twin sisters Jackie and Tessie Gallagher, 14, are freshmen on the Kearney track team. Their two older sisters, Kerri and Mary Gallagher, both ran track at Kearney and hold several school records.
Though not identical, the twins share a sisterly bond that has helped establish them as the talk of the CHSAA track world. It’s tough to imagine that they’re only freshmen and still have such bright futures ahead of them on and off the track.
The Gallagher family hails from Rockaway, and the twins are two of nine siblings – four girls and five boys. Jackie is the older twin by just 12 minutes.
The girls and their family are parishioners at St. Francis de Sales, Belle Harbor, where Jackie and Tessie were stars in Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball and soccer.
They actually did not run much track growing up until the summer before their freshman year. Their older sisters, Kerri and Mary, prepared them well for what to expect at Kearney.
“They (Kerri and Mary) told us what we should do and what we needed to do,” Tessie said. “Jackie and I have a certain trust in them, so we just do what they say and it really works.”
Though they excel in the other two sports, the sisters fell in love with track and have made it their primary sport.
“I went into track, and I ended up really liking it,” Jackie said. “I’m going to stick with that.”
Dual Threat on the Track
The Gallagher twins fed off each other en route to a successful cross-country season this past fall. Now in the indoor track season, they compete in different events that meet their individual strengths – Jackie in 1500-meter and Tessie in the 800-meter.
“We like to compete with each other, but mostly we stick together and then we’ll separate at the end,” Jackie said. “It’s nice to have her (Tessie) there so she can pace me and I can pace her.”
“She (Jackie) brings out the person that I can be,” Tessie said. “You don’t always have a teammate that can do that, so it’s nice to have her on the track.”
A perfect example occurred in early November at the Brooklyn/Queens freshmen cross-country championships at Van Cortlandt Park, the Bronx. The duo was running together near the front of the pack, but Tessie was losing energy with the hilly section of the course coming up.
“Stay with me, and you’ll be fine,” Jackie said to Tessie, which gave her the boost she needed to finish strong.
But they did much more than just finish strong. Tessie finished in first place with Jackie right behind her in second place to help the Kearney Tigers take home the diocesan championship title.
They followed that performance up by placing sixth (Tessie) and seventh (Jackie) in the city championships.
In just a few months, the twins have led by example on their team and shown a willingness to learn under head track coach John Lovett.
“When you meet them, they’re such sweet kids, but on the track, you don’t want to hang with them because they want to win,” said Lovett, who coached both Kerri and Mary Gallagher. “That’s the spirit in them. That you can’t teach. It comes from within, and they have it.”
Breaking Sisters’ Records
Jackie recently broke freshman school record in the 1500-meter at the Colgate Games with a time of 5:22 – 48 seconds faster than the previous record. Tessie’s personal best in the 800-meter is 2:38, just one second above the school record.
While they are getting close, their older sisters, Kerri and Mary, are still Kearney record holders. Kerri set the low mark in the 2.5-mile cross-country race at Van Cortlandt Park in 2006 with a time of 16:08.79, while Mary holds the 1.5-mile freshman record at 10:49.
But Mary realizes that her younger sisters are right on her tail. When the twins placed first and second this fall in the Brooklyn/Queens championship, Tessie finished in 10:51.72, and Jackie came in at 10:54.66 – both just seconds behind Mary.
“If there is anyone who is going to break the record, it might as well be a Gallagher,” Mary said. “I’m so happy about that. Plus they’ve been telling me that they’re going to break them, so I’ve been preparing.”
Kerri and Mary have both had lasting success on the track since graduating Kearney. Mary is a senior in the St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, education program and is student-teaching at her alma mater. She recently set the Terriers’ record in the 1500-meter at 4:47.
After running track at Fordham University, the Bronx, Kerri is now the assistant track coach at American University, Washington, D.C., and she just missed making the Olympic trials last year by four seconds.
Based on the track legacy of the family, the Gallaghers are destined to remain in the Kearney track record books. Now it’s just a matter of which first name will precede the Gallagher name: Kerri, Mary, Jackie or Tessie.