Following an Injury, Toledo Cross Country Runner Discovers Passion for Photography

November 13, 2023 | Athletics, News, Student Success, UToday, Alumni, Business and Innovation
By Staff

Stress fractures are a harsh reality for distance runners. It happens all the time. It happened to Xavier Gallo, a member of The University of Toledo’s men’s cross country team, while he was training for the 2021 season. Facing months of rehab, Gallo decided to make the most of his time on the sideline.

“I still really wanted to be a part of the team but, since I was injured, I couldn’t run for eight to 10 weeks,” said Gallo, a native of Dublin, Ohio. “So, I started coming to practice and taking photos.”

 Xavier Gallo, a member of The University of Toledo's men's cross country team, takes photos of the Toledo football team as he and they run onto the field before a game.

Following a stress fracture while training for the Toledo’s men’s cross country team 2021 season, Xavier Gallo discovered his love of photography, and was later hired as a marketing intern for the Toledo Athletic Department.

It was through documenting his teammates’ activities that Gallo discovered a passion for photography. When word spread that there was a capable photographer on the cross country team, Gallo was tabbed to photograph the 2021 Mid-American Conference Cross Country Championship for the Toledo Athletic Department. He also shot some Toledo football games that fall. His photos turned out to be excellent and were used on social media and the UT Athletic Department’s website.

Heather Lutz, UT’s associate athletic director for marketing, was impressed by Gallo’s work and hired him as a marketing intern in 2022. Gallo’s first official assignment as an intern was the 2022 football home opener.

“Xavier did a great job of capturing the experience of Toledo football, the big plays as well as the emotion of athletes and coaches,” Lutz said. “He did a tremendous job of telling the story of Toledo Football.”

Gallo parlayed that experience into an internship with a Michigan-based company, all the while still interning at UT. He soon discovered that the corporate life was not for him.

“I got the internship through a job fair here on campus,” said Gallo, a double major in marketing and entrepreneurship and innovation in the John B. and Lillian E. Neff College of Business and Innovation. “It was the kind of business where employees wore suits and ties and worked a traditional 9-to-5 shift.”

Gallo had no such concerns about creative freedom in his position at UToledo. He expanded his role into shooting and editing videos and found he had a knack for it. He created the 2021-22 and 2022-23 highlight videos that were played at the annual Rocket Awards reception. He felt as though the first video was slightly rushed so he spent extra hours compiling footage for the second video.

“I ended up putting in about 17 hours into sorting through and editing footage for the 2022-23 video,” said Gallo. “It was a lot of fun, and it’s something I’m most proud of.”

Gallo has worked with almost every sport at UT, taking photos and videos that are used on social media, graphics and emails. He also has a few other projects in the works, including a documentary focusing on the Toledo men’s cross country team, and a video recapping his work at the University. After graduation next spring, he plans to continue creating videos, either as a freelancer or with an agency.

In addition to working as a marketing intern, Gallo also is involved in the Launchpad Student Section. He took over the role of president in January 2022. As president, Gallo has contributed to an increase in student attendance at UT football and basketball games and helped grow a larger social media presence for the organization. He also works closely with the Athletic Marketing Department and administration to coordinate student tailgates.

Photo of Xavier Gallo, a member of The University of Toledo's men's cross country team, during a meet.

After sitting out the men’s cross country team 2021 season so his stress fracture could heal, Gallo returned to competition in 2022.

Gallo’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“The Launchpad has undergone significant improvements in the last year since Xavier became president,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Bryan B. Blair. “I have no idea how he balances all this while being an excellent student and Division I athlete, but we are extremely fortunate to have him.”

“He has a huge passion for The University of Toledo,” said Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Andrea Grove-McDonough. “He’s a creative guy. There is no doubt he’s going places.”

Even though Gallo’s interests diverted his attention away from his sport, he still sees cross country as an important part of his life. After sitting out the 2021 season so his stress fracture could heal, Gallo returned to competition in 2022. He ran in four races in 2022, clocking a PR of 27:09.9 at Notre Dame’s Joe Piane Invitational, and also competed this fall.

“I had to get back to the physical state of being a runner,” Gallo said. “Eventually it came back. It was just tough to get there. It’s been a tricky time, but I’m happy to have had the opportunity to run with my guys again.”

Even though Gallo does not score among the team’s top runners, he has made an oversized impact on the cross country program and the Athletic Department overall.

“Xavier is one of those glue pieces in terms of culture, just an all-around great guy who is respected by his teammates,” said Grove-McDonough. “When you can’t necessarily make the same impact athletically as the number-one runner but you find a way to make an impact anyway, that’s something special. Xavier has that.”

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