Eight years of running cross country will cover a lot of ground.
And yet, four Penn men’s cross country athletes have taken the same path. Freshmen Sean Banko and Michael Keehan, senior Andrew Hally, and his brother Pat Hally (Class of '17) all attended Salesianum School before donning the Red and Blue.
Salesianum, located in Wilmington, Del., is an all-boys Roman Catholic school, most known for its nationally ranked soccer team. The school's running program, however, has the most wins of any program in any state. Since the beginning of the program in 1959, Salesianum cross country has failed to win the state championship just six times, which is a particularly impressive feat given the microcosm of running talent that the state of Delaware has become in the past 10 years.
Banko, Keehan, and Andrew and Pat Hally all contributed greatly to the astonishing success of their high school’s running program. During their time at Salesianum, the team won the 2014, 2016, and 2017 Delaware Cross Country State Championships. The athletes all had impressive individual feats as well.
Banko and Keehan were the first two athletes in program history to run at Nike Cross Country Nationals after qualifying at the Nike Cross Regionals. At 9:10.43, Keehan holds the school record for the 3200-meters. As a sophomore, he was also the individual Delaware state cross country champion in 2017, one of 23 individual champions from the Sallies program.
Alongside him was Pat Hally, who earned the same distinction in 2012 and 2013. For this reason, the Sallies record book is filled with the Hally name. Andrew and Pat hold the No. 2 and No. 3 all-time records for the 1600m at 4:18.03 and 4:18.09, respectively. Andrew, now a senior at Penn, was not always a shining running prospect. In his first two years at Salesianum, the presence of his older brother Pat weighed down his passion for the sport.
“Having my brother there definitely played into the fact that I wanted to be my own person, so I didn’t really like running as much. But I saw the work that he put in … and I had a template of someone that I could look up to,” Andrew said.
Salesianum coach Michael LoSapio saw the evolution of Andrew Hally firsthand.
“Andrew when he was a sophomore was really, really not good at running and really unmotivated. And his brother was a multi-time state champion,” LoSapio said. “And my assistant coach at the time wanted to talk to him and really rip into him, but I said we shouldn’t.”
The assistant coach went rogue and confronted Hally about his sub-par efforts on the team. While the confrontation is now something that Andrew laughs about, it was a defining moment of his high school running career.
“I was not using my talents to the fullest and kind of doing the bare minimum instead. It definitely was the turning point in my running career because it was me realizing that I needed to take everything more seriously,” Hally said.
Hally would go on to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and become a leader on his high school team. After the team lost the Delaware Cross Country State Championships his senior year — a first for the program in a very long time — he was instrumental in regrouping and setting the tone for a Sallies comeback.
Hally and the team would go on to win the indoor and outdoor state championships that year.
That was 2015, when Keehan and Banko were just beginning their careers as freshmen on the team. LoSapio recalled knowing the two were going to be great runners when shortly after joining the team they were able to compete with the seniors. He reminisced about a moment that would foreshadow their commitment to the same collegiate program four years later.
“I remember watching both of them go on a cool-down together, and the two of them were just chatting on a run, and I remember thinking, ‘those two are in it for life.’ And now they’re at college together,” LoSapio said.
The duo attributed a great deal of their success in high school to the impact that Andrew Hally had on Salesianum. They would ultimately follow in his footsteps, leading the team to another outdoor track victory during their senior year, just as Andrew had done when he was a senior.
And the Hallys' presence doesn’t end there.
When an assistant coaching spot for the Salesianum cross country team opened up in 2018, none other than Pat Hally made a return to his former home to join the coaching staff for Keehan’s and Banko’s final high school season.
“It’s pretty weird to have that cycle of our high school and Penn and then Penn back to our high school in that it was this small full cycle between the four of us,” Keehan said.
In a truly cyclical fashion, when it was then time to leave Pat Hally, there was another Hally waiting when the two committed to Penn. Andrew picked up right where he left off, resuming his supportive role in the running careers of the incoming freshmen.
“The team already knew who we were because Andrew’s got a loud mouth. So it made it an easy transition not just athletically, but socially with the team. And a big part of that goes to Andrew for making a position for us to fit on the team,” Keehan said.
Now, in his last season at Penn, Andrew will have his last chance to chase some of the records his brother still holds. For one, Pat is the ninth fastest Penn runner of all-time in the indoor 5000m (14:27.64).
“I was definitely aware of his records, and I got some of them and he still holds some of them. It’s a back and forth, but [it's] also grounded in support for one another, just the fun side of wanting to beat each other. You see what they do and you think, 'alright I can do a little bit better,'” Andrew said.
When Pat and Andrew overlapped on the Quakers' cross country team in 2016, the team won the Ivy League title. Now with Pat gone, Keehan and Banko ready to contribute as freshmen, and Andrew looking to bookend another four years of running with another title, a great deal of Salesianum energy will be coursing through Penn's cross country season.