Days before the state track and field championships last month, Brophy coaches outlined for their athletes what it would take to win the Division I title.
Not surprisingly, Devon Allen was at the center of the plans.
The six months prior had not been good to the Broncos’ star sprinter/hurdler.
He suffered a high-ankle sprain near the end of football season, which nagged him for months. He rode a bike and rowed to stay in some semblance of shape, but still packed on 15 pounds. He finally returned to the track in mid-March, but could only do events sparingly.
If he didn’t feel right in preliminary races, Allen would often not race in the finals. His times had improved every year of his life, and now, as a senior, they were dropping back down because of the ankle injury and a lack of endurance.
“I was kind of bummed out,” Allen said.
Now he was needed to revert back to the superstar of old, not only for his own place in Arizona track history but for the benefit of his team.
It didn’t start great. Mountain Pointe sophomore Paul Lucas ran 10.44 seconds in the 100-meter dash, distancing himself from second-place Allen near the finish line. That was only Allen’s second 100-meter dash of the season, and he couldn’t keep up.
At that point, whispers started circling at Mesa Community College. Lucas was in the 200, and he had the capability of beating Allen again. Fellow Brophy hurdler Bobby Grant was a legitimate foe in the 300-meter hurdles. Could Allen’s final season end in disappointment?
He shook off that notion about as quickly as he runs the 100.
Allen put his skills on full display in the final three events at state, winning the 200-meter dash (20.98 seconds), the 110-meter high hurdles (13.59 seconds) and the 300-meter hurdles (36.74 seconds), leading Brophy to the team title and claiming a second consecutive Tribune Boys Track Athlete of the Year award.
There were some fleeting moments of doubt, especially, he said, when Grant led him on the turn of the 300 hurdles. But Allen is used to the big stage, and he forgot about the pain in his ankle and in his chest in those moments to find another level.
“I always seemed to feel better on race days,” Allen said. “I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline or what, but at state (the ankle) didn’t hurt too badly.”
After four magnificent years, this was the way it was supposed to end for Allen.
He set a state record in the 110-hurdles as a junior and surpassed it with a time of 13.50 seconds at the Mt. Sac Relays in April. He won five state individual titles in his final two years, and could have won four events as a senior if he stayed healthy.
Always the perfectionist, Allen wishes the injury wouldn’t have lingered. However, it’s almost 100 percent now as he prepares for the U.S. Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships beginning on Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa. If he makes that team, he will try to escape for a weekend from fall football camp at Oregon to run in the Pan Am Junior Championships in Medellin, Columbia.
Once he’s done with his freshman season on the gridiron with the powerhouse Ducks, Allen will switch over to track. Once track is done, he will be back to football.
It’s the dance he’s done for years, and for awhile, he actually appreciated the time off forced by the injury.
“It was cool being able to watch some of the track meets,” Allen said. “I’d be sitting in the stands drinking Gatorade and eating pretzels.”
He could have relaxed all season if he so chose.
After months of inactvity and with a future already decided, few would have questioned Allen if he sat out the year to heal.
Instead, he came back and capped his high school career with another memorable showing.
“That’s what I do,” Allen said. “I run.”