Co-authored by Christopher Lagan, Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf and Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Yaw.
Anyone who meets Lt. Hillary Allegretti walks away with two distinct impressions – she loves the Coast Guard and is equally passionate about running. What baffles the mind is how she finds time to be so successful at both.
When she dons her uniform, Allegretti serves as the waterways management chief and senior investigating officer for all federal marine casualties at Marine Safety Unit Cleveland. In her spare time, she is a marathoner who competes in Olympic-distance triathlons to “break the monotony of preparing for a marathon.” She finished 43rd out of 295 women – 9th out of 35 in her age group – in a half-Iron Man triathlon in California in 2009 and a second passion was discovered.
Allegretti’s Coast Guard career began at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy where she graduated with the Class of 2005. From 2010 to 2013, she served as small passenger vessel chief for Coast Guard Sector New York, a position that would put her in charge of vessel inspections at the world’s third largest passenger ferry port. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Allegretti oversaw the resumption of commerce in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
Hurricane Sandy was not only a significant moment for Allegretti professionally, it also created a personal challenge for her as an athlete. She had qualified for the 2012 New York City Marathon, the opportunity to fulfill a dream, only to have the event cancelled as the city rebounded from the impact of the worst natural disaster in it’s history.
The sponsors of the New York City Marathon offered Allegretti the opportunity to compete in 2013, 2014 or 2015. She chose this year and set her sights on being in the best position possible to compete this November. Again, she turned to triathlon as a way to train at the highest level while keeping it interesting. She trains five days a week – alternating between cycling, swimming, running, yoga and one day in which she combines a 25-mile bike ride with a six-mile run.
Training in Cleveland, Allegretti was looking for a competitive triathlon as she continued to prepare for New York. What she found was a great opportunity to compete, an opportunity to inspire those she serves beside and an opportunity to deepen her affection for the Coast Guard – Cleveland was chosen as the host city for the 9th Gay Games, an international competition held every four years since 1982 founded on the principles of “participation, inclusion and personal best.”
“This was my first time participating in the Gay Games. I participated because it was being held in Cleveland,” said Allegretti. “I think the weight of participating as an openly gay service member really didn’t hit me until I was in the race and people were cheering ‘the Coastie.’”
While being a member of the LBGT community is not a requirement for participation in the Gay Games, military members would have been unable to do so prior to the 2013 repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; the last Gay Games were held in 2010. The Cleveland Gay Games marked the first opportunity for Allegretti to compete against athletes from around the world and prove herself an elite athlete on the international stage.
“I was happy to participate,” said Allegretti. “I was also happy to see the acceptance from the City of Cleveland and from the people in the city. It made me proud to be a Clevelander.”
On August 10, Allegretti competed in the Gay Games Olympic-distance triathlon. The race consists of a 1,500-meter swim followed by a 24-mile bike ride and concludes with a 10-kilometer run. Allegretti took the gold medal in the women’s 30 to 34 age group with a time of 2 hours, 58 minutes, 22 seconds.
Perhaps more significant than winning a gold medal, which she proudly displays upon request, Allegretti’s choice to compete, to do so openly and to dedicate herself to competing at the highest levels serves as a tribute to the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty and makes her a role model for those who serve and those contemplating service.
“The gold medal meant that hard work and training pay off,” said Allegretti,” The accolades I have received from the Coast Guard family took me completely by surprise but I think further reinforces the perspective that the military appreciates and recognizes hard work regardless of your sexual orientation.”