Runners are a different breed and Laker senior Van Gallatin is not your run of the mill high school student athlete either.
Gallatin is a member of the National Honor Society, the Link Crew that mentors freshmen, Target, which promotes a drug-free school, the social awareness group DL Thriving; he’s a team captain and has lettered each year in cross country and track and field. He coaches youth basketball, the list, literally, goes on and on.
He began working in 2016 on an associate’s degree from M-State in pursuit of an elementary education degree and while he will begin college well ahead of the curve, it wasn’t without losing a major portion of the senior year high school experience.
“I knew I was sacrificing that but this is what I wanted to do,” he said.
Teaching, in a way, is a family tradition but most of his relatives went the seminary route. His mom Jillene is the pastor at Trinity Lutheran, his dad Peter is the chaplain at Ecumen and he has an uncle Jon, a pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.
However, Gallatin’s calling to teach was something he has wanted to do his entire life, the seminary, not so much.
“Whenever anyone asked if I wanted to be a pastor, my answer was hell no!” Gallatin laughed.
Instead, he was inspired by three male elementary teachers he had from fourth through sixth grade in Scandia. The Gallatins, including brother Grant, moved to DL from Forest Lake in Van’s sixth grade year.
Aside from all the activities listed previously, an average day for Van consists of two classes at the high school, volunteering at a reading class at Rossman Elementary, working at the DLCCC, completing the daily log of college coursework and coaching youth basketball at night.
“There is a lot of weight on me,” he said.
He also completed a teaching internship with girls cross country coach Ryan Zunich teaching fifth grade.
“I learned a ton from him,” said Gallatin.
Being motivated to be so involved in the community and with the many classes and teams he is a part of, while planning the future can take its toll, a hard lesson he learned during the cross country season this fall.
Sometimes, one can do too much.
Gallatin started daily running and the speed and strength program in the summer of 2016. He was a member of a solid cross country team that placed third at sections, the best finish in Laker history. The Lakers were one place out of a state team qualification.
“I still think about that every day and it eats me up,” he said.
He continued with a 400-mile winter running regimine and coached two youth basketball teams into the spring track season and a 300-mile summer.
By the start of this year’s cross country season, he knew something was amiss.
“After the first meet at Staples, I felt pretty crappy and this is weird,” he said. “It was terrible.”
A visit to the hospital produced reports that came back fine.
At the home meet 10 days later, Gallatin pulled up after the first lap of the course.
“I couldn’t even finish the meet,” he said. “I got through that first lap and all of a sudden my feet started tingling and I could not keep going.”
A sports medicine visit confirmed a simple diagnosis: exhaustion.
A 1,300-mile running schedule in a year can do that.
While medical staff recommended rest and to lay off running, his senior season was underway and Gallatin came in expecting to be a team leader. Along with head coach Bill Kvebak, he decided to push through it and get back in the lineup. It was a daily battle to get back on the team and that never really happened.
“Burnout and overuse is so different for everyone, especially, recovery time,” he said. “We just went for it to see what would happen.”
The travails of a failed experiment and watching the senior XC season begin to wane had a negative effect mentally also.
“I lost the fun in running,” said Gallatin. “Coach Kvebak has always told me, ‘Van, you’ve got have fun doing this.’
“I turned it into a job. That was a big, tough thing. It was senior year. I always wanted to be the top guy and be the best. I had the work ethic and I was going to do everything I can.”
Gallatin decided to see a sports therapist, who recommended anti-depressants, not an uncommon treatment for runners. Getting some of the stress load down helped as well.
“I already feel so much better,” he said. “I’ve got my college done and I’m ready to compete.”
With two years of school work completed before he steps on campus, Gallatin will have the luxury of tapping the brakes a bit with finishing school while keeping four years of athletic eligibility on the table.
Gallatin joins 2016 DLHS graduate Kyra Vagle, who also completed an associate’s degree before starting school at Mankato.
Despite the senior season hardships, Gallatin has had his mind set on running at Minnesota State University Moorhead since childhood and initiated contact with the coaching staff. He had also communicated with MSUM all-american Brady Speicher from Perham. Gallatin will be rooming with Brady’s younger brother Carson, a fellow incoming freshman runner next fall. Both Speichers were on Yellowjacket state championship teams in high school.
Carson and Van both signed National Letters of Intent in November to run at MSUM.
Running for Moorhead also keeps a family athletic tradition going. Gallatin’s father was a high jumper for the Dragons.
Keeping a healthy eye on the pursuit also has a family tie.
Uncle Jon was a three-sport star for the Moorhead Spuds before his athletic career was cut short after surviving a cardiac arrest.
Gallatin communicated with MSUM head coach Ryan Milner during the season and recruiting process and turned down other offers, including a last-minute scholarship to run at Valley City State prior to committing to the Dragons the same week.
“That was my goal all along,” Gallatin said. “He (Milner) knows he’s going to get a hard worker.”
As a Dragon, Gallatin will run alongside good friend and former Laker teammate Aaron Johnson on a team that has featured area runners and pushed them to national success the past half-decade.
“I kind of know I’m going in there as a bottom-feeder, but I’m going to work my butt off and be a good teammate,” said Gallatin.
That last line pretty much sums up Van Gallatin to a tee.