* Battlefield's Austin Gallant competes in the 500m at The VA Showcase in January
Photo Credit: Tevin Smih/MileStat
By Brett Haffner - MileSplit Correspondent
Being a middle-distance athlete is already tough as it is: The 400m and 800m are some of the most brutal events in track & field.
But what if you had to shot put right afterward? Or discus? Or high jump?
For Austin Gallant, a senior at Battlefield (VA) High School, this kind of versatility and flexibility with different track and field disciplines is second nature to him. It's not uncommon to see him double or triple with a combination of middle-distance and throwing events.
In fact, he's currently ranked U.S. No. 3 in the 500m, he's a top 30 athlete in the 400m and, fascinatingly enough, is also a top 100 shot put thrower nationally this indoor season.
"My dad was a huge track guy, he was a shot putter and super into it," Gallant said recently. "I was the farthest thrower when we tried it out for the first time -- it was a huge wakeup call."
Even in middle school, Gallant found that there was no pressure to throw the shot put before heading over to the track for a 400m or 4x400.
Perhaps this was the start of his unique, yet versatile doubles at meets.
But very rarely do you see mid-distance talents who also put up elite numbers in the throws. Often times, those guys turn into decathletes.
And that just might become Gallant some day. As he began his high school career, the Virginia teenager learned of the multi-events, combining various disciplines into one grinder of a competition. This really stood out to him as he felt he could make it his own and achieve great things from it.
He has the stats to prove it, too, from a 1:57.72 in the 800m to a 151-4 in the discus, all the way over to a 51-4.5 mark in the shot put.
Of course, Gallant has yet to conquer the jumps, or a 1,500m. But perhaps in due time.
Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 and meet cancellations over the past few years, he hasn't quite been able to compete in a pentathlon or decathlon just yet.
However, this hasn't stopped him from pursuing his dreams, even amid some serious adversity.
"Over COVID, I went through some really scary injuries that really put me in a low, dark place," Gallant said. "It was really tough, but I made a full recovery and am on my way to achieve my dreams that I had growing up."
Being inspired by Usain Bolt even before his track & field career blossomed, Gallant ultimately has two main focal points for the season going forward: Secure goal-setting marks in all of his field events and become the best sprinter he can be.
"I haven't been able to prove myself as a sprinter quite yet," said Gallant, who's coming off impressive performances at The VA Showcase in the 400m and 500m. "I have to work on my top end speed for the 400m and really show my sprinting abilities off. I want to be able to hang with guys like Will Sumner, Jayson Ward, and other really fast guys."
Most recently, Gallant was a key component of the blockbuster 500m race down at the VA Showcase -- he led the first 300m that ultimately led to Will Sumner setting the national record in that race.
"Over winter break, I had to do all my training on the treadmill, so I definitely struggled from the start," Gallant said. "I got out as hard as I could, and I felt the hurt at the 350m mark -- it was very humbling."
While Gallant finished fourth in that race in 1:06.00, he still owns the nation's third-best time of 1:03.95 from his effort in December at the Walt Cormack Memorial.
With the strength of competition in the greater Virginia area being top-notch this season, Gallant wants to be able to compete with the likes of Summer and Ward in the state and national meets in the coming months.
"I'll throw the shot at states to get points for the team," Gallant said. "But I want to focus on being the best sprinter I can be and show that through my performances."
Having some talented teammates in tow, Gallant's Battlefield (VA) squad has already thrown down one of the fastest 4x400 times in the nation, having already run 3:20.46 back in December. His teammates are a crucial component to that goal.
Winston Broiles has the tenth fastest 55mH time in the nation, having run 7.50. Austin Rice ran a U.S. No. 7 time of 1:05.66 in the 500m at The VA Showcase, and actually beat Gallant's time of 1:06 that day in another heat. And Cohen McNabb isn't too far behind, either, with his 1:06.64 500m time.
With that in mind, Gallant expressed the desire for Battlefield's quartet to break the Virginia state record in the 4x400 -- which is 3:18 -- but to also bring home a national championship for the school.
"We've never had somebody win a national championship for our school," Gallant said. "I'd like to be the first to do it with my teammates. I wouldn't be where I'm at today without them, we can all push each other at practice every day."
With an exciting prospect of a season looming ahead of him in the sprints, there's still something sitting at the back of Gallant's head -- the field events.
"Once indoor is done, I'll start back up doing hurdles again and even work on distance training for the 1,500m, even if I don't like it," Gallant said. "I'll still have to lift on my own time for shot put and practice all the other events too. I want to get marks in all the events I can during outdoors."
It's going to be a very busy track season for the multi-faceted Gallant.
Very few others will have more event marks posted to their MileSplit page than him.
With all that under his belt, it'll all pay off when his long-sought-after attempt in the decathlon finally comes to fruition.
* MileSplit editor Cory Mull contributed to this story.