- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

Feb. 7 was a banner day for Julie Culley and Lindsey Gallo.

That afternoon in Derwood, Culley earned a spot at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan, with a second-place finish at the USA Cross Country Championships. Later that evening, Gallo surprised many - including herself - with a 4:27.90 victory mile at the Boston Indoor Games.

Culley and Gallo - 27-year-old Arlington residents coached by American University coach Matt Centrowitz - were ecstatic for each other.

“The best thing is we love each other very much,” said Gallo, who said she has known of Culley since high school, when they were growing up on opposite ends of New Jersey. “We have the same personality and philosophies. It’s really hard to find other women to train with - they are so competitive. But we spend so much time together on and off the track. When Coach Matt calls us, he asks if we’re at my house or Julie’s house.”

On a “relaxed” run last week starting at Roosevelt Island and traveling down the National Mall to the Capitol and back, Culley and Gallo covered many topics, including their relocations to Arlington, their New Jersey connection, the weather in the District and Centrowitz.

“I credit everything that’s happened in the last year and a half to Matt,” said Culley, who nearly gave up the sport after a tough collegiate career at Rutgers left her injured and burned out.

Said Gallo, “I’ve been lucky with coaches and I love my coach in Michigan, but I think Matt’s helping me to define my weaknesses.”

Centrowitz has a storied reputation for his directness - sometimes offending and complimenting his athletes in the same breath - but he gets results and respect. Culley and Gallo used the phrase “tough love” and gave many examples.

“The first six months I was working with Coach, I was crying, but I tried so hard to keep him from seeing it,” said Culley, who commuted two or three times a week to the District from her coaching job at Loyola College in Baltimore, then moved to Arlington in July 2007 to be closer to Centrowitz.

Gallo relayed a “Centrowitz moment” of her own: “We were doing 300s on the track or something like that, and I saw some guys warming up in spikes. And I asked Coach if I should wear spikes or flats, and he snapped back, ‘Why are you asking such a stupid question?’ - and he walked away.”

Both were quick to credit Centrowitz’s uncanny ability to coach Culley, a 5,000-meter runner; Gallo, a miler; and Susannah Kvasnicka, a marathoner, in one creative training session.

Gallo said a chance meeting with Culley at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials last June led to her move from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Arlington, but her boyfriend’s job transfer to the District sealed it.

Both spent quite a bit of time razzing each other about their hometowns.

“She thinks I grew up in the boonies, like in West Virginia or Kentucky,” said Culley, from Clinton in northwest New Jersey.

Gallo hails from Freehold, 30 minutes from the shore. “But you did,” Gallo countered.

Even amid all the talk, the mutual respect was evident.

“I watched her career in college [at Michigan],” Culley said. “It was great seeing another Jersey girl being successful.”

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