Spencer Allen By The Numbers
42”: College high hurdles are three inches taller than the ones Allen cleared at Mount Vernon
13.9: Allen’s personal high hurdle goal for his freshman season at Georgia Tech
13.97: Allen blew by the competition with his remarkable sub-14 to win the IHSA 110 High Hurdle title earlier this year
“If I was to make robots for a track team, Spencer would be my prototype.”
-Clint Turner, Mount Vernon boys track coach -
Facing higher hurdles and tougher competition at Georgia Tech, Spencer Allen is focused on reclaiming his Mount Vernon magic
BY JOE SZYNKOWSKI
Spencer Allen is happy to be hurdling again.
With event-specific training in full force down at Georgia Tech, the former Mount Vernon Township High School standout is preparing for his first collegiate competition when the indoor track season begins in December. Allen and his teammates recently wrapped up a five-week conditioning program comprised of weight-room work and stadium stair sprints.
Now comes the fun part.
“It’s nice to be focusing on jumping again and technique,” Allen said. “In high school, we never really had a time devoted solely to conditioning. I’m in really good shape right now.”
Allen’s last competitive moment on the track was in Charleston, where he ran a 13.97 in the 110 high hurdles to claim the 2A IHSA state title in May. Building on that championship momentum will be key to a quick collegiate start for Allen, the first Rams boys track athlete to sign with a Division-I school in nearly a decade.
“I don’t think it will hit me until I’m in the stadium,” said Allen, who fell in love with Georgia Tech on his first visit. “It’s exciting to think I’ll be lining up against some of the best hurdlers from all over the country.”
Nearly 500 miles from his college campus in Atlanta, Allen staked out quite a legacy back home during his high school days. His championship senior season capped off an impressive career that featured broken records and a progressive transformation into greatness.
“If I was to make robots for a track team, Spencer would be my prototype,” said Clint Turner, Mount Vernon’s boys track coach. “He would be a great athlete at any sport. We were fortunate that he chose track. He started at a very young age and worked his tail off at it.”
Allen made three consecutive appearances at the state finals, finishing third in the 110 high hurdles his junior season. After winning his preliminary heat in the 110 high hurdles in 14.44 on the Friday of his state appearance as a senior, Allen promised to finish under 14 seconds in the finals.
Turner remembers watching his senior standout make good on his promise.
“Those crowds at the state meet are 10 to 14,000 people, but they have a tendency to be really quiet,” he said. “I remember yelling and screaming by the fourth hurdle because I knew Spencer was just blasting it.”
Allen’s spotless 13.97 set a new Class 2A record. His burst out of the blocks was crucial.
“It is so important to get out in front in that event,” Turner said. “So many things can happen, from people knocking down hurdles or falling down. When Spencer got out in front, he kind of got out of any possible trouble that could have happened in front of him.”
Coaching Allen to a state championship was a highlight of Turner’s extensive experience at Mount Vernon. The achievement was also a culmination of years of relentless effort from one of the school’s all-time athletes.
“I have watched him work and work over the years,” Turner said. “It’s funny, I was in my office the other day and I saw a picture of him in our hurdle camps in fifth or sixth grade. He’s that prototypical kid.”
Allen soared over hurdles in high school, but faces a sizeable challenge – three inches to be exact – at the next level. College high hurdles are 42” and can sometimes be a stumbling block for freshmen, who are used to hurdling 39” in high school. The 6-foot-3 Allen isn’t concerned.
“I don’t think moving up to the 42 inches will be a problem,” he said. “It just kind of throws my hips when I come over, they kind of pop out on me. I don’t think it will slow me down.”
Allen’s college coaches don’t seem to be harried with the hurdle height, either.
“We were very impressed with Spencer from day one in the recruiting process,” said Yellow Jackets head coach Grover Hinsdale. “His overall build (height-weight-inseam) were all factors. In addition, he seemed to be getting better and faster each week of the season finishing with a couple of sub 14s.
“We are all looking forward to watching him develop into a very competitive hurdler at this level.”
Allen is working with hurdle coach Nat Page, an NCAA Champion high jumper at the University of Missouri in 1979. Page was ranked in the top 10 in the world from 1979-81 and earned a spot on the United States’ 1980 Olympic team after finishing second at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“Coach and I have talked about running about 13.9 this year,” Allen said. “That would be really, really nice for me. I would also like to finish in the top four or five at the ACC conference meet.”
Allen is presently working with long jumpers, also. Cross-training in an additional event could help Allen adjust to the physical rigors of the college transition.
“I believe that developing strength and explosiveness will be a top priority early,” Hinsdale said. “Spencer was coached well throughout high school on basic hurdle techniques so there will be no need for major changes in hurdle form.”
Turner, the SICA All-South 2A Coach of the Year, humbly declines any credit for Allen’s college-ready hurdling skills.
“We didn’t do anything special with him,” he said. “He really developed on his own.”
Allen also earned a spot on the SICA All-South team for his all-around elite season, and he thinks back often to his record-breaking state performance.
“It still hasn’t really hit me,” he said. “It was a great feeling and a great way to end my career. I just praise the Lord for giving me the strength and opportunity to win the title.”
Allen’s faith is, and always has been, a driving force in his daily life. His Christianity comes up in conversations about his past accomplishments, present focus and future goals.
“God has just really changed my life,” Allen said. “Track and school are things I really care about a lot, but they aren’t as important as my spiritual life is to me.
“God has given me encouragement and so many great opportunities like winning the state title and running at Georgia Tech.”
Allen’s friends and family in Mount Vernon also serve as a collective pillar of support for the young man far away from home. “My mom tells me all of the time about all of the people asking how I am doing,” Allen said. “It means a lot to hear about that.”
Turner is at the top of Allen’s fan club.
“You just love Spencer Allen,” he said. “He’s a Christian. He professes that Christianity. He comes from a great family and is very respectful. You just love everything about him.
“A kid like that, he’s going to be successful in whatever he goes into professionally … as a husband … as a father. He’s going to be top-notch at everything.”
Joe Szynkowski is a freelance writer for SISC. Contact him or read more of his work at www.joeszynkowski.com.