From walk-on to national champion
When Grand Valley State University senior Lisa Galasso first arrived at the Allendale Campus as a freshman in 2010, track and field wasn’t even a thought in her mind. She was overlooked by many and wasn’t seen as a potential contributor in the eyes of many coaches.
Fast-forward to the 2010 Outdoor GLIAC Championships.
Galasso was a key member of the GVSU team. She earned two GLIAC titles by taking first place in the 400-meter hurdles and was part of the first-place 4×400 relay team. She then went on to wrap up her freshman campaign by contributing to the fourth-place 4×400 relay team at the NCAA Division II National Championships — which was good enough to earn All-American honors.
“You could say that I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder coming into Grand Valley,” she said. “Being overlooked in high school will do that, but I always knew I had the talent. It was just a matter of how hard I was going to work for it. I knew if I put enough time into it that I could be really good.”
She had the talent, the right attitude and a willingness to put in the work early in her career.
Her teammate said it was just a matter of time before she burst onto the scene.
“She’s one of the hardest working athletes I have ever known,” senior Kalena Franklin said. “She’s just one of those types of people that never stop pushing. It’s her work ethic and determination that has put her in the place to do great things.”
GVSU coaches began to train her in other areas after her freshman season, and her 800-meter training regimens eventually led to even more success.
The “All-American walk-on” adapted and earned yet another label during her sophomore campaign.
“It was hard transitioning from hurdles to distance; it was definitely a big adjustment,” she said. “After how much success we had my sophomore season and after winning a national championship, I realized that this event might be for me.”
The national champion then had to make one of her toughest decisions as a student athlete after developing a stress fracture in her foot during her junior season.
The nagging injury limited her ability to compete in hurdles, but once again, Galasso adapted.
“It was really hard for me to do, but I had to put my love for hurdles to the side,” she said. “At that time I knew that my team would benefit more from me running the 800. I can’t help but often think, ‘What if I never got hurt?‘”
Galasso persevered through the injury and eventually claimed a seventh-place finish in the 800 at the 2013 Division II Indoor National Championships. She said it was one of her biggest moments as a Laker.
“After everything I had been through up to that point, it was an amazing feeling to finish that well at the National Championships,” she said. “I would’ve never thought I would transition that well and have so much success in the 800. It gave me motivation for that event for the rest of my career here at Grand Valley.”
She showcased her versatility yet again in 2014 at the Bob Eubanks Open on Jan. 10 by setting a GVSU record in the 600-meter run with a time of 1:33.20. Her first-place finish was more than five seconds faster than the second-place runner from the University of Michigan.
Head coach Jerry Baltes said her story is one that underclassmen can look to for an example.
“She really is just a top-notch individual,” Baltes said. “She’s a tremendous worker — someone who can lead the team by example.”