Friday, March 16, 2012

Schappert, Koons, Muncan & Tully Benefit from Gagliano's NJ-NYTC

Frances Koons, Nicole Schappert, Marina Muncan and Sean Tully are all affiliated with former Georgetown (and Oregon Track Club) coach Frank "Gags" Gagliano's New Jersey-New York Track club. The Wall Street Journal today published this expose of Gagliano and the NJNYTC (visit the club's website HERE).

The Wall Street Journal
March 16, 2012, 8:58 p.m. ET

Coaching Icon Readies Another Olympic Run

Frank Gagliano knows everything you could want to know about running a great mile. But this Sunday he'll watch his protégé Julie Culley run 13.1 miles in the New York City Half Marathon—a first for both of them.

Gagliano, known affectionately as "Gags," heads the Olympic-development New Jersey-New York Track Club in Piscataway, N.J., and his bona fides since he started coaching over 50 years ago are impressive: 11 Olympians, one world championship medalist, and dozens of national and NCAA medalists.

"Some people like golf, some people take off to Florida," he said. "I like clicking my stopwatch."

Culley, who is the reigning U.S. 5k road champion, is one of Gagliano's best prospects for this summer's London Games. The half-marathon will be an experiment before Culley attempts to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in the 5,000 meters this summer.

The Bronx-born Gagliano, who turns 75 Tuesday, was training Olympic hopefuls in Oregon in 2008 when his daughter-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer.

After the Beijing Games, he decided it was time to retire and move back East to be with his family.

Not long after he settled in Westchester, however, Erin Donahue, a New Jersey-based Olympian, called and asked Gagliano to coach her. He accepted.

News that he was working again galvanized the local running scene, and by last summer the 25-member New Jersey-New York group was meeting regularly at the Rutgers University track.

For the most part, the team consists of recent college graduates hoping to break into the top tier of American athletics—Gagliano's specialty.

"Nobody has had more continued success with mid-distance and distance runners beyond college than Gags," said Vin Lananna, the associate director of athletics at the University of Oregon and the co-founder, along with Gagliano, of the elite development Oregon Track Club.

Describing the current scene in American track and field, Lananna added, "No country in the world has something quite as established, funded, and organized as our high schools and colleges, but afterwards there's this big void." That's where Gagliano's club steps in.

Elite development track clubs tend to come and go in the U.S., but the NJ-NYTC has already spawned four world championships qualifiers. The group, now a non-profit, is the only such organization on the east coast to receive funding from the USA Track & Field Foundation and the New York Road Runners.

The sponsorship of Gagliano's cohort marks the first time the NYRR, which also produces this weekend's NYC half marathon, has endorsed a local group with Olympic potential. "Nothing makes us happier than to have such talent here," said Mary Wittenberg, the NYRR CEO.

Most of the team members have family or collegiate ties to this area, but all describe Gagliano as having a paternal presence in their coaching. "I remember one day at practice when I tried running but couldn't and I started crying," said Nicole Schappert, a former Villanova standout, describing the challenge of returning from a stress fracture last fall. "Instead of telling me to 'suck it up,' Gags put his arm around me." Two months later, Schappert ran the fastest indoor mile of the year by an American woman.

At the track earlier this week, neither Culley nor Gagliano appeared daunted by the half-marathon. Culley said she's hoping to finish in less than 1 hour, 12 minutes, though her coach emphasized preparing her for what's next: "Afterward, it's back to the track to get the 15:20 for the trials."

Referring to the Olympic qualifying standard for the 5,000 meters. Culley's current personal best? 15:21.

Even at 75, Gagliano is still looking out for the next generation of runners. He won't name names, but he's working on a short list of collegians to invite to NJ-NYTC. And if there's any doubt about his mental fortitude, his humor is as sharp as ever. Asking for her workout assignment at practice, one runner called out to Gagliano, "What am I doing today, Coach?"

"Running," he said.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Bill. Gags is one of the best people in the sport. I am proud to say I know him. There is no question many share my feelings.