Genes run in the family: Liam and Grace Galligan


Photo provided by: Mary Raskob

If cross-country success at Franciscan University of Steubenville has a name, it’s Galligan. You could say that the genes run in the family, with Grace and Liam Galligan being named women’s and men’s 2018 AMCC Runners of the Year, Liam’s two-year winning streak at the AMCC cross-country championships, and two siblings headed to nationals.

Though they didn’t get many chances to run together on a team growing up, Grace and Liam have the same goal of success and a sibling camaraderie to rival any other. They’re both fiercely competitive and driven.

Both Galligans have been running competitively since 5 years old, starting at their home parish of St. Francis of Assisi in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia CYO Program.

Photo provided by: Mary Raskob

Because they’re three years apart in age, they only had the chance to be on the same team for two non-consecutive years before college. Their training styles also differ, with Liam getting up at 6 a.m. to get a sunrise run in and Grace running in the evening.

Their opportunity to run together came in Grace’s second year at Franciscan, after she transferred from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and spent one year of serving with NET ministries, when Liam entered Franciscan as a freshman.

Liam said his goal was to build up the team into something notable and prize-winning. “I had always dreamed of building a strong cross-country program, and Franciscan had all the tools necessary to start this process. The athletes, the faith, the training that we have are things that we can use to make a contending program.”

What he got, in the process, was two years running with his No. 1 supporter.

“I’ve always prided myself on being self-dependent when it comes to achieving my personal goals,” said Liam. “Being able to push myself in running motivates me to do better in a lot of things in life, especially academics and my faith life. That’s the same intensity. Running helps me push myself because I know I can demand more of myself when I’m training.”

Yet every athlete thrives with a little help from friends and family.

Grace, who is team captain of the women’s cross-country team, said her drive for success helps her to understand and push others to the same. “When you push yourself, you allow others to see that they have a capability inside of them as well. If you’re not pushing yourself, you can’t push the team.”

She extends this energy to being the voice in the crowd for Liam at meets. Their family can’t always come to races, but Grace said the siblings share a similar “pre-race headspace.”

“It’s like he knows what I’m thinking because he would be thinking the same thing,” she said. “Our dad gets really intense when he cheers, and Liam needs that when he races. Other people on the team are afraid to do that, but I’m like, ‘I’ve been doing this my whole life.’ I’ll scream as loud as you need me to.”

They serve as a mutual support system for each other whether in practice or at a meet. Liam said he checks in to make sure Grace got her run in, “… and just checking in to see how she’s feeling. We’ve both gone through some serious injuries in our careers.”

“It’s a gift that we can run on the same team here,” said Grace. “It’s different; he’s not like a regular teammate. There’s this camaraderie that is really special, and I have to remind myself: once I graduate, I’ll never be on the same team as him. It is a really big gift that I don’t think a lot of other athletes get.”

“Having these two years back with her is just amazing,” said Liam.

There’s some friendly competition between the two, according to Liam, but it’s more of an accountability standard. Grace shared that the only rivalry or competition is “the energy I extend in preventing Liam from growing his hair out too long so that he doesn’t look like me,” she laughed. “Last year, people on campus would mix us up when they saw us from the back because his hair was so long.”

Both agreed that running has formed them as individuals, helping them become more well-rounded adults.

“I personally have come to a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me through the sport of running,” said Grace. “There really aren’t many things in life that push you to the limits like running does. Running brings you face to face with your doubts, fears, anxieties and sufferings.”

The Galligans contributed to the men’s and women’s cross-country victories in the AMCC cross-country championships at Franciscan University on Oct. 27, 2018. Both were nominated members of the 2018 AMCC all-conference team, and are headed to the NCAA DIII National Championships on November 17. For the second time in program history, Franciscan will send and female and male runner to the national meet.

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