Following her junior cross-country season, Avrie Allen thought she was finished with competitive running.
Opting to focus on her role with Columbus North’s school yearbook, Allen did not run track last year or cross-country this year. She wasn’t planning on running track this season, but thought she needed a physical education credit to complete her requirements for graduation.
As it turned out, the gym class in which Allen was enrolled was sufficient, but she didn’t find that out until after the track season started. So she kept running, and she’s glad she did.
“I approached her about coming back out her senior year, and she was pretty receptive to it,” North coach Lou Sipe said. “But you never know. You take that much time off, you don’t know what kind of shape they’re going to be in. But Avrie is a competitor, and I’m excited to see her have some success her senior year.”
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Allen, who was the leadoff runner on the Bull Dogs’ regional-qualifying 4×800-meter relay team as a sophomore, is back in that familiar role. She helped the team to a second-place finish in a season-best 10 minutes, 1.96 seconds in last week’s Franklin Sectional and a berth in Tuesday’s Warren Central Regional.
North distance coach Rick Weinheimer has been pleasantly surprised with Allen’s reemergence.
“She’s come further that I expected, and I think she’s the best she’s ever been,” Weinheimer said. “I’m really happy for her, because I think it has been great fun, and we appreciate her wanting to end her senior year this way. I have noticed that she just runs hard every day, and I appreciate that, too. She brought that work ethic back, and it’s showed up in the results.”
Allen ran consistently over the summer and a couple times a week during the school year, but not much over the winter until track practice started. She began the track season by running the 400.
Midway through the season, assistant coach Bethany Scruton put her 4×400 relay girls in a 4×800 relay, and Allen ran a 2:34 leg. After that, Weinheimer put Allen in the 4×800, and she’s been there to stay.
“I didn’t think I was going to be running the 800 at all, and I’m not much of a sprinter, so I didn’t really expect to be put in a varsity spot for the 400, either,” Allen said. “So I’m happy that I was put in the 800 because I like it a lot more.”
Allen’s best time as a sophomore was 2:28. She’s almost back to that mark.
In the regular-season finale at Franklin, Allen ran 2:29 in the open 800. She’s been 2:30 in the 4×800 a couple of times.
“I’m actually surprised that I got the 2:29 and 2:30,” Allen said. “I did not expect to be getting close to where I was my sophomore year.”
Although she resurrected her competitive running career this spring, Allen won’t be continuing that in college. She is headed to Indiana University, where she’ll run for fun, but not for the Hoosiers.
But even though she won’t be running at IU, she may have a chance to run on the school’s Billy Hayes Track. The Bull Dogs are seeded fourth in the 4×800 for Tuesday’s regional and need a top-three finish to earn an automatic berth to the June 3 state finals.
“I know Nina (Bouthier) can drop a couple of seconds,” Allen said. “I’m really wanting to drop a couple of seconds, and Kirsten Ballard has done a really good job recently. If Kirsten keeps dropping, and Arig (Tong) is really good, as well, so I think we can all run under what we ran in the sectional. If we do that, then I think we have a really good chance of being in the state meet.”
Warren Central Regional
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Warren Central High School
Who: Qualifiers from the Franklin, Warren Central, Connersville and Franklin County Sectionals, including runners from Columbus North, Columbus East and Hauser.
Advancement: Top three in each event and anyone else meeting the state qualifying standard from the state’s eight regionals advance to the June 3 state finals. If that number is less than 27 in an event, the next-best performances are added until the field totals 27.