May 6, 2012

Doug Hawley: Finish is just the start

By Doug Hawley

— So often, people are caught up in thinking winning is all that matters in distance running and other sports. Nevertheless, much can be said for “personal” victories.

Harris Gallegly, an 8-year-old second grader at New Hope Elementary, achieved one such victory during a local road race in mid-March.

Harris’ father, Matt Gallegly, wrote in an email to race director David Sanders: “The Dalton St. Patrick’s Day 2-miler is short by road race standards. But for some, it was just the last two miles of an epic journey.”

The note goes on: “Harris was diagnosed with supra valvular aortic stenosis at three months of age. This condition consists of narrowing of the vessel above the aortic valve. The severity of his condition was characterized as mild/moderate. Doctors monitored this closely as family, friends and strangers prayed for healing. God’s hand was evident as he went eight years without any symptoms or physical restrictions.”

Then a snag occurred.

“Last summer, he underwent a stress test to check the function of this area,” Gallegly wrote. “Some of the results were not favorable, and his doctors recommended surgery. The healing that we had prayed for would come.”

Good news followed.

“The amazing team of doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta repaired this condition with miraculous accuracy,” Gallegly said in the email. “Three weeks after surgery, he was in the pool. At his sixth month checkup, his doctor remarked that his heart sounded totally normal. Awesome!”

Which brings us to the race, which started and ended at First Presbyterian Church in Dalton.

“As he crossed his first race finish line with a time of 19:53, our hearts were filled with joy,” his father proudly declared, “because he had not just run two miles but had completed a journey eight years in the making.”

Young Harris’ recent reaction?

“I was pretty excited,” he replied. “I was really tired.”

Harris took 13th out of 22 finishers in the 10-and-under age division, but who among family and friends really cared about the place?

He’s likely not done competing, either.

“I’m interested in running in more races,” Harris said. “I’ll have to see how it goes.”

His mother, Ambyr, suggested that down the road, her son might be attacted to half marathon races.

“Matt and I each have run a half marathon, though we primariy do 5Ks” she said. “He understands the regimen that goes into it. I mentioned to him that the half was 13 miles, and he said, ‘Mom, it’s 13.1’. He had a little bit of a gleam in his eye when he said it.”

Despite his physical prpblems, Harris has been involved in tee ball and baseball since age 3 and karate for the past three years.

“He has a yellow belt currently in karate,” Ambyr said. “He’ll get his orange belt in several weeks.”

Even more importantly, his mother emphasized, “He’s doing wonderfully in school!”

Early in his life, Harris Gallegly has already shown the ability to successfully meet challenges.

BRAVES RUN BASES WELL: We sometimes forget that running occurs to some extent in virtually any team sport, including baseball.

On a rare trip to see the Atlanta Braves this past Thursday in a noon game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field, I was particularly interested to see right fielder Jason Heyward. At 6 feet, 5 inches and 240 pounds, he more resembles a college or pro football team’s tight end.

Nevertheless, Heyward has been among the National League’s leaders in stolen bases throughout the season, with eight going into this weekend’s series against the Colorado Rockies. Can you imagine being the middle infielder and having somebody that big and fast coming at you?

Center fielder Michael Bourn, who represents the Braves’ first quality leadoff batter in several years, led the NL in stolen bases in 2011 while splitting the season with Houston and Atlanta. He trails Heyward by one theft.

But as I watched on Thursday, Heyward and the Braves realized the adage, “You can’t steal first base.” The Phillies’ Joe Blanton fired a masterful three-hit shutout in which he struck out six batters, walked none and threw only 88 pitches in a 4-0 win.

Two Braves stars, third baseman Chipper Jones and catcher Brian McCann, were given the day off. The former had the walk-off home run and the latter a grand slam the night prior in an amazing 15-13 comeback triumph over the five-time defending NL East champion Phillies.

Losing pitcher Randall Delgado normally would have won while allowing two runs and six hits, whiffing five and issuing no walks. There were no errors in the game.

This all added to a rapid two-hour game, almost an hour faster than your average big league clash.

It was the quickest outing on this level I’ve observed in person since the Boston Red Sox blanked the host Detroit Tigers 1-0 at old Briggs Stadium in 1950.

Although most people appreciate faster games, concessions likely took a hit.

Former Braves owner Ted Turner once acknowledged that soft drinks cost too much at his stadium. At game’s end, most of my group still had food and drinks left.

Doug Hawley, a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years, can be reached at