It was a simple question. One that Sara Sargent immediately answered.

Moments after completing her final race at the PIAA state track and field championships, the Pennsbury freshman was asked to identify the one person she would like to meet.

"Kim Gallagher!" Sargent answered on the Seth Grove Stadium infield at Shippensburg University. "If I could meet one person, it definitely would be her."

The 15-year-old was well aware that Gallagher, a two-time Olympian and former Upper Dublin standout, died of a stroke in 2002. But if Gallagher were still alive, Sargent would try to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

The Pennsbury standout is infatuated with the runner who dominated area tracks decades ago. She has been that way for as long as she can remember.

Her father, Greg, who ran at North Penn and Manhattan College, knew Gallagher from their days as members of the Ambler Track Club.

Once his daughter showed interest in track, he frequently told her about Gallagher's accomplishments.

"I said I wanted to be as good as her," said Sara Sargent, The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania girls' track and field athlete of the year. "Like when she was in high school at each grade level, I wanted to be as good as Kim Gallagher or even better."

So far, so good.

In a District 1 Class AAA preliminary for the 1,600 meters, Sargent ran 4 minutes, 51.64 seconds, breaking the meet record of 4:54.1 set by Gallagher in 1981. Gallagher was an Upper Dublin junior at the time.

The following day, Sargent won the final in 5:00.17 to easily win the race. She also won the district title in the 3,200 in 10:33.80.

Sargent added more excitement at the Class AAA state meet.

Her winning time of 10:21.06 in the 3,200 broke the state-meet record of 10:21.77 set by Janelle Thomas of Liberty in 1996. It was also this season's seventh-fastest time in the nation, according to

Noticeably fatigued from the 3,200, Sargent faded midway through the 1,600 and ended up fifth in 5:00.75.

"It wasn't the race that I wanted, at all," Sargent said of the 1,600. "I thought I would be able to recover, but most of it was mental."

But that disappointment didn't take away from what was a phenomenal season.

"I know that right now, the bar is going to be set awfully high for me," Sargent said. "I know that I have a lot to live up to.

"But that's good, because if I can do it as a freshman, who knows what I will be capable of as a senior?"