Colleen Gallagher grew up in Brunswick, Ohio, and attended Our Lady of the Elms High School in Akron. As a swimmer, she was a four-time state qualifier and also a YMCA national qualifier.
Gallagher entered Lake Forest College in the fall of 1994 and helped lead the Forester women’s swimming & diving team to Midwest Conference championships in each of her four years. As a freshman, she claimed conference titles in the 500-freestyle and 400-medley relay before earning Honorable Mention All-American honors by placing 15th in the nation in the 200-butterfly. The following season she repeated as league champ in the 500 and added titles in the 400- and 800-freestyle relays. A few weeks later, she was named All-American after finishing eighth in the nation in the 200-butterfly and she helped the team’s 200- and 400-medley relay teams place among the top 16 in the country. Gallagher claimed conference championships in the 200-freestyle, 500-freestyle, 200-butterfly, and two relays as a junior. She closed out her career with another league championship in the 200-butterfly and two additional relay titles in 1998. Gallagher captained the team her senior year and finished her career with 13 conference championships in seven different events. At the time of her induction, she still ranked among the top five swimmers in program history in the 500-freestyle and 200-butterfly and the 400-medley relay team from 1996 still held the school and MWC record. The women’s swimming & diving team’s four-year run as conference champs was the first of its kind for any sport at Lake Forest College.
Gallagher graduated in 1998 with a degree in sociology and anthropology and later earned a master’s degree in teaching from National Louis University. She went on to a career as an elementary school teacher and remained involved with swimming by coaching the sport at various levels.