For two years, Charlie Allen was a junior varsity cross-country runner.

This fall, the junior was Columbus North’s top finisher in most of its meets.

Allen’s drops in time and leaps in production can be traced to one simple factor — training for triathlons. He took that training to a higher level over the summer, and that transferred over to cross-country season and his selection as The Republic Boys Cross-Country Runner of the Year.

This summer, Allen won Columbus Challenge sprint triathlon and Tri Louisville. He credits the swimming and biking with helping his running.

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“It gives my legs a rest while still building my oxygen delivery system,” Allen said. “I had the oxygen there, so once I started running, it just kicked in.”

Allen didn’t win any cross-country races this fall, but was a consistent high finisher for the Bull Dogs. He finished fifth in the Conference Indiana meet to earn All-Conference honors and was third in the Brown County Sectional and fourth in the Brown County Regional. His personal-best of 16 minutes, 7 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) came at the Louisville Trinity Invitational.

A 63rd-place finish at the state finals has left Allen striving for a better one next year. He hopes to place in the top 25, which would earn him All-State honors.

In the meantime, Allen is currently swimming for North. He plans to run track again in the spring and continue training for triathlons. He is thinking about doing cross-country and track or triathlons in college.

Allen was a little shocked at being the top cross-country runner for his team, but he wasn’t surprised by his times because knew he was in shape from the summer triathlon training.

Rick Weinheimer, who has coached the Bull Dogs for three decades, couldn’t recall too many runners who had gone from JV one year to No. 1 runner the next.

“I would think that’s one of the biggest jumps we’ve ever had somebody make,” Weinheimer said. “I think this season gave him a chance to prove to himself how much potential he has in this sport. I think he can have just an outstanding year next year.”

At a glance

The 2016 The Republic All-Area Boys Cross-Country team

Charlie Allen, Columbus North: The junior finished third in the Brown County Sectional, fourth in the Brown County Regional, 38th in the Brown County Semistate and 63rd at state

Elijah Brooks, Columbus North: The senior finished fourth in the sectional, third in the regional, 18th in the semistate and 89th at state.

Eli Fischer, Columbus North: The senior finished seventh in the sectional and regional, 33rd in the semistate and 111th at state.

Alec Embry, Columbus North: The senior finished eighth in the sectional, ninth in the regional, 47th in the semistate and 115th at state.

John Sluys, Columbus North: The sophomore finished 48th in the semistate and 78th at state.

Alex Hendrix, Jennings County: The sophomore finished third in the Southwestern (Hanover) Sectional, sixth in the regional, 19th at semistate and 113th at state.

Franklin Sanders, Jennings County: The junior finished fourth in the Southwestern (Hanover) Sectional, 12th in the regional, 40th at semistate and 77th at state.

Carter Leak, Jennings County: The freshman finished fifth in the Southwestern (Hanover) Sectional, 19th in the regional, 43rd in the semistate and 163rd at state.

Paul Bean, Columbus East: The senior finished second in the sectional, 14th in the regional and 46th in the semistate.

Wyatt Wyman, Brown County: The junior was fifth in the sectional, eighth in the regional and 21st in the semistate.

Honorable mention

Brown County: Job Lawson. Columbus East: Jonathan Clayton, Josh Sensanbaugher, Michael Zieleniuk. Columbus North: Peyton Shelton, Drew Smith, Justin Spoon, Drew Thompson. Hauser: David Seelye. Jennings County: Dalton Craig, Ryan Gasper, Wayne Komsi. Trinity Lutheran: AJ Goecker.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.