Part Two: Their Senior Year:
By Neely Spence
Here it is, the golden year for Pennsylvania distance running has finally arrived. Expectation hangs in the air as the cross country season nears its’ close, and questions remain unanswered.
Kim Gallagher remains the favorite to add yet another state title to her collection. How much will she be pushed?
Lois has been struggling for three years now to catch Lynne. Will she do it?
Lynne is in tip-top shape and thinking about adding one more national meet to her high school career. She’s placed second two years in a row; will her consistency show again?
Gina is enduring her final year of high school cross country in preparation for a conspicuous track season. Will she have the confidence to earn her only state gold?
Kim’s final hurrah to high school track was not her final two state titles (one in the 4x400 and one in the 4x800). It was her 2:00.07 800 - still the national high school record.
“It is amazing what Kim was able to accomplish because she was a forerunner and was ahead of her time,” says Jack Fuery, her Upper Dublin high school coach. “We didn’t even race on an all-weather track until the conference meet. Our track was cinder and it would flood when it rained, which made it nearly impossible to use at certain times of the year.”
Her high school track may have been a training obstacle. However, Kim was on target to have her best year yet.
She never liked to talk about her training or workouts with those outside her coaching circle; in fact, her exact workouts are still shrouded in secrecy. It is known that Kim had a workout she would always do 1-½ weeks before her big meets and when it went well, she’d know she was ready. She didn’t have rituals or superstitions… she just put on her spikes and competed.
Her accomplishments and records have become more coveted, as time has marched on without them being overtaken. Fuery added, “Kim’s story is of perseverance and hard work and dedication, that’s what propelled her to the national level.”
Propel her it did. Kim won the 1981 PIAA state championship meet by over 10 seconds in a time of 17:46.0. It didn’t stop there. She used the momentum to carry her to a 4:47.77 indoor mile at the Millrose Games in early February.
She went to her final state track meet. Not having met the qualifying standards in her individual events to participate at her district meet (an athlete had to run a district qualifying time twice throughout their season to compete in their events), Kim competed only in the mid-distance relays. She anchored the 4x400 relay with a 53.8 split, as well as the 4x800 relay with a clocked 2:03 to take her team to the top of the podium twice on the same day. Upper Dublin girls ran a time of 8:58.43 to set a national high school federation record! Fuery adds, “The girls got to take a victory lap around the Shippensburg University track (Who, to this day still hosts the PA state track and field meet). Kim loved the state meet. The crowd, the atmosphere, the excitement.”
Her final hurrah to high school came at the National Sports Festival where she ran 2:00.07 to take home her last national record. This record still stands today. Kim was a record-making and breaking machine, but she wasn’t alone in that practice.
Lois Brommer finally catches Lynne Strauss,
and then catches her again!
“My senior year I won the Kinney (Footlocker) Northeast Regional meet,” Brommer proudly states. In fact, she set a then-course record of 17:04.7. “This was a huge accomplishment for me because I was second at the PA state meet.” (Lois never won a cross country state title).
The shock from that victory was the impetus that propelled her training the next few weeks with one goal in mind for her first national showing. “ I wanted to win.” Kinney (Footlocker) was held in Florida for the first time (It originated in San Diego’s Balboa Park)
“I wasn’t really able to enjoy all the things they provided because I was there to win. They took us to Disney World the day before the race! I hung around with Lynne a lot because she was also serious about the race and was a familiar face. It was a great experience, but I was not there to go to Disney or to get a tan on the beach. I was there to compete for a national title.” Brommer was all business, and in her first-ever national experience, she finished second in 16:43.2 just three seconds behind Connie Jo Robinson.
She used her favorite workout (quarters, 12-14 in 72 or so-“there’s a beauty to doing them”) and the confidence she had from her cross experience to run in one of the few indoor meets in the area, where she won the 3200 in 10:26.9 - the fastest time that season for PA high school girls. Injury occurred that track season, and Lois was sidelined for a few months. She made the best of the free time she now had (the time when she would usually be running) to begin her college search. Lois had reached her goals; she had won her state title in track her junior year, finished behind only Kim at the 1981 cross country state meet and made her first-ever national team.
Lois however, wasn’t alone. There were two more girls that had yet to attain their goals before graduation.
Lynn Strauss was arguably the best Kinney (Footlocker)
finalist never to win.
Her senior year was in full swing by the time November rolled around, and the colder it got in PA, the more excited she got for her early December trip to Florida…The Kinney final (Footlocker Nationals).
Her third trip proved to be successful as she and Lois (mentioned above) went one-two at the NE regional meet and headed to Disney World together with running on their minds (not thrill-rides). Lynne’s 17:35.1 remains one of the top times ever run at Van Cortlandt Park.
That humid morning in Florida, Lynne ran 16:59.9 to take third behind Lois and Connie Jo Robinson to complete one of the most consistent Kinney/Footlocker careers ever. (She placed second in both her first (17:42) and second (17:20) Kinney finals).
She continued to work hard through the cold PA winter and competed in the PTFCA meet in two individual events, the mile and the 2-mile. She won both with times of 4:55.2 and 10:35.2.
With her hard winter training as a great base, she set out to complete her final year of PIAA track and field. “States were sooooooo hard, we would race and be top three at states, but we were probably like top three in the nation too!”
States was it, the final place to lay her mark and she did just that by winning both the 1600m and the 3200m. Conversely, states weren’t as competitive as she presumed they would be. Lois was out with an injury and Kim was forced to focus on the distance relays. “I remember how disappointing it was my senior year when I won both the 1600m (4:48.94) and the 3200m (10:36.45), it was so sad that none of them (Lois or Kim) ran those events.” Lynne was dissatisfied to know her wins were not nearly as sweet as they could have been.
Contrasting with Lynne’s disappointment, our final girl reveals her true feelings about her last state meet.
Gina Procaccio had perseverance and determination and luck on her side – exactly the equation needed to win the 800 at states in 1982.
With a long run of 7 miles and a favorite workout consisting of 5x300 fast on lots of recovery, she hit the track ready to roll. “We didn’t have nationals in track, so states was the big race. It was high-level competition… you had to run fast to win. It was all about being a state champ.”
In May 1982 Gina’s hard work, competitiveness and dedication paid off; she won her only state gold medal. “The race that stands out the most in my high school career was winning states in the 800 my senior year in 2:10.53. I was elated, I had conquered a long-term goal.” She added, “I only won because Kim didn’t run.”
Gina had accomplished her high school goal… she was now looking towards graduation and college.
In June, this talented group of girls walked the stage. Only this time, they weren’t in running shoes… all across PA, the senior class of 1982 graduated. Their senior year now a memory, their thoughts drifted to their high school accomplishments. Would they have accomplished what they did without the competition that each girl added to the mix?
Kim had God-given talent off the charts, and with her strong work ethic, she was well-known.
Lois had all the heart and twice the courage.
Lynne was a natural athlete with lots of spunk and positive energy.
And Gina didn’t think she was that good, but as Henry Knox said, “Perseverance accomplished what at first seemed impossible.”
With anticipation to what lay ahead, each with different post-high school goals, they went into their final summer as the golden girls of PA.
You may be wondering what their plans were come that fall. But that, my friend, will come in the third and final section of this trilogy.
The Early Years:
By Neely Spence
Once upon a time in a not so far away land there were four amazing female athletes. Two of them were competitive from a young age and running had always been their passion. One tried other sports and kept getting cut for being “too small” and “uncoordinated” and went out for track as a freshman with a friend. The last one was a cheerleader with less rah-rah and more endurance.
Coming from such diverse backgrounds, what did these girls have in common? They all became PIAA state champions. Do you know who they are? No? Well time has a way of making things vanish like fairy dust. Their names may not sound familiar but their records are as prominent as wishing stars.
There are theories behind why their records are still standing. Some say that there are more sports now that girls can participate in, so it spreads the talent thin. Others say that they didn’t have as many races because there weren’t as many teams, which would, of course, make a difference for a distance runner. But how much of a difference? Their stories show that a fairy godmother and a prince charming aren’t needed to make a fairy tale. This is the story of four goal-driven girls who challenged each other to reach the top. These girls were part of the most incredible class Pennsylvania high school distance running history has ever seen, the class of 1982.
“ALL HER TRAINING WAS BASED ON A LONG TERM SCALE.
WE WERE THINKING, NOT THIS RACE OR EVEN NEXT YEAR…
EIGHT YEARS FROM NOW!”
on the awards stand in 1981, their junior year – Photo courtesy of Gina Procaccio.
Kim Gallagher began her running career at the age of seven when she joined the Ambler Olympic Club where her elder brother was already a member. Her club coach, Larry Wilson, said that he will never forget Kim’s first day of practice. “I informed two of my captains who were both 17 to take Kim on a warm-up through our half-mile of wooded trails. I instructed them to not let her get lost. To my surprise, Kim came out of the trails 100 yards ahead of my captains!” This was just the beginning of her stellar career.
Kim, at the age of nine, ran a 5:39 mile. At age 12 she ran the 800 in 2:12 at an age group national meet in Florida. Kim made a new meaning for the word “Athlete.” Not only did she win the first-ever Penn Relays high school girls mile her Freshman year in 4:48 (competing for Upper Dublin), Kim - at 96 pounds - during practice one day picked up a shot-put and threw it over 30ft! Then she meandered her way over to the long jump and jumped over 16ft.
Following her record setting 9th and 10th grade years, she ran in the Sports Festival her junior year and ran 9:19.67 for 3k beating the NCAA D1 champ. She had an incredible range. She was exceptional in anything from the 400m to 5k cross-country races. Coming straight from her High School Coach, Jack Fuery: “She had one foot in High School and one in the world. All her training was based on a long-term scale. We were thinking not this race or even next year… eight years from now!” Kim was in the spotlight, but she wasn’t the only PA girl that was following the rainbow.
“IT WAS SO FRUSTERATING TO RUN A TIME THAT WAS TOP 10
IN THE NATION, BUT I COULDN’T WIN A STATE TITLE!”
Lynne Strauss, State College (l) and Lois Brommer,
Mechanicsburg, in the XC state champs in 1980 at Lehigh.
Lois Brommer came from a running family, and knew from the time she laced up her blue and orange Brooks Villanova’s (her first pair of running shoes) that she was cut out of distance running material. “I used to race this boy around the playground each morning before school started. We were pretty evenly matched so it was always exciting to win!”
Her competitiveness propelled her to excellence. Competing for Mechanicsburg as a sophomore, she ran 2:24, 5:03, 11:15 and placed fifth at states in cross-country. “I tried running with Kim and Lynne (State College star Lynne Strauss, soon to be introduced) my sophomore year, but it didn’t work… frankly I don’t think they even knew I existed.” (Gone are the days when someone runs a 5:03 and it goes unnoticed!)
Lois was more determined than ever. “I worked really hard my junior year with a goal of keeping those two in sight.” She did more than just keep them in sight; she turned into a force to be reckoned with. “It was so frustrating to run a time that was top 10 in the nation but I couldn’t win a state title!”
But have no fear, she did just that. Lois claimed that she was a strength runner – the more wind and hills and mud, the better. But she ran 10:28 in the PIAA state championships that 11th grade track season to earn her first gold medal (after placing second behind Kim in the 1600 with a time of 4:48.) “I had finally won states! I felt great and it felt effortless. It was amazing, at long last I had accomplished one of my goals.” It was her dream, come true. Lois, however, wasn’t the only one who wanted a state title.
“COMING FROM THE SAME DISTRICT AS KIM,
I DIDN’T THINK I WAS ANY GOOD!”
Gina Procaccio tried many different sports. But it wasn’t until the spring of her freshman year at Sun Valley High School that she happened upon track and field. She was sick and tired of being told she wasn’t good enough and warming the bench in field hockey just wasn’t her style, so she tried out for track because they didn’t make cuts.
She survived the season, and she asked her coach how she could get better. We all know the more you run the easier it gets, so he told her to run over the summer and then use cross country to get ready for track. “I’d get up at 5:30 in the morning to run. Looking back I think, wow, that is crazy. But I didn’t want to get made fun of for running and working hard… peer-pressure is what got me going. My coach thought I was super dedicated, but really I was just scared!” Gina’s effort showed her next track season. She ran 2:14 to finish 3rd at states.
The summer of her junior year the temptation to be “normal” was gone and she ran at whatever time of day she wanted to. She had yet another breakthrough track season and ran PRs of 2:10.9 for second at states and 5:04 for second at districts. “Coming from the same district as Kim I didn’t think I was any good. 2:03 vs. 2:10, 4:41 vs. 5:04. I just liked running and wanted a scholarship.”
In this distant, misted past there was one other girl who also fell in love with this sport.
“MY JR YEAR OF CROSS MY TEAM WON STATES!
WE WENT 1,3,4,6,17,18,19 AND EACH GIRL MADE ALL-STATE!”
Lynne Strauss made the cheerleading squad at State College as a freshman with everything except running in mind. But, after relentless pursuit by the cross-country coach and some negotiating, she began her first year of running while balancing the demands of both sports. One year later (with cross as her solo fall sport) she qualified for her first national race placing second in the inaugural Kinney finals (now Footlocker) in San Diego, California. That was, of course, after finishing behind only Gallagher in the PIAA state meet.
With her cross season propelling her into track she earned two state titles – one in the 1600 with a time of 4:53, and the other in the 3200 with a time of 10:45. For Lynne, track was fine, but fall was never far from her thoughts. “I loved cross country. I loved my team, my coach, and just the total randomness of the terrain.” Her passion showed each fall.
Following her “coming-out” sophomore year, Lynne and her team produced big at the PIAA champs. “My junior year (1980) the State Championships were held at Lehigh, my team won and every girl on the team made all-state. We went 1,3,4,6,17,18,19.” Less than a month later, Lynne was on a plane bound for sunny California, and her second Kinney final. She placed second again, this time behind Ceci Hopp (St. Geme). Lynne’s 11th grade track season was full of expectations that she not only met, but also surpassed. She won Penn Relays in the 3k in 9:39, was third in the PIAA 1600 in 4:52 and ran a PR of 10:34 for 3200.
The final year remains for these four stars. Stopping their fairytale high school careers here would be a Brother Grimm’s fable worth writing, but there was unfinished business and the best was yet to come:
Gina had yet to earn her state gold in the 800; Lois had just learned about Kinney and asked her coach to find out how to enter; Kim was prepping for her 2:00.07, 800 - still the national high school record; and Lynne was headed toward her 3rd Kinney final. Surely they had each other in mind as they pushed toward what would become the golden year for PA distance running – the year where their high school dreams came true.