When he initially signed up for track in the spring of his freshman year at King Philip, Jack Allan was looking for something to fill time and to keep him in shape for the fall soccer season and swim in the winter. By his own admission, he wasn’t particularly great that first season on the track.
Eight years later and Allan is now a standout for Brandeis University, captain of the track team, and setting new program records in the heptathlon, decathlon, and most recently in the 60-meter hurdles. His heptathlon score is currently 10th best in the nation in Div. III and he is on pace to qualify for nationals.
“I was really bad at baseball so I naturally started doing track to keep me busy,” he joked. “My freshman year I was no good, but my sophomore year I started to find some success. I grew into my body and I really started to love it and the personal achievement you can find.
“There is a competitive aspect to it but when you can really work hard at something and compete against yourself and get that personal achievement it really drove me.”
His senior year at KP, Allan took third in both the 110-meter hurdles and the triple jump and fifth in the long jump at the Hockomock Outdoor Track Championships. He was drawn to those events because, as he put it, “running is pretty boring on a base level.” He added, “Throw some hurdles on a track and run over those is a lot more exciting than just running in circles for however long you do it.”
When he got to Brandeis, he expected those would be the events that he would be competing in. As it turned out, new assistant coach Jason Sliwoski saw the potential for more. He noticed Allan’s height and his athleticism and had Allan start training for the heptathlon and the decathlon. It turned out to be a record-breaking fit.
“I didn’t know it at the moment but he was so right,” Allan explained, “and I’m so glad that he knew right away that this was something that would work out for me and something that I’d find success in.”
Success in those events was nearly taken away from Allan during the indoor track season as a sophomore. He suffered a significant injury to his labrum while pole vaulting at the New England meet. While he finished that heptathlon in a top five place, he was limited to hurdles and jumps during the outdoor season.
He had surgery to fix his shoulder over that summer, but there was concern that he wouldn’t be able to take part in those events any more because of the strain that something like pole vaulting would cause. Allan took advantage of his recuperation period to study abroad in Amsterdam, clear his head, and regain his focus to come back even stronger for his junior season.
“It kind of allowed me to get away from track because it’s so much in college. It’s practice everyday, multiple hours, and lifts in the morning,” he said. “It made me really want to compete, to really get back into it, I hated being away from it, I hated being injured, and it drove me so much to get back at it.”
When asked about the new perspective that he gained while out injured and how that has impacted his performance, Allan replied, “It kind of felt like it could be taken away from so easily. This will be the end of my track career after college, so it made me focus everything I have on it and give everything I got.”
That attitude has certainly paid dividends for the Judges on the track.
Last spring, Allan set a new Brandeis mark with a 5,998 in the decathlon at the DIII New England Championship meet, eclipsing a record that had stood since 1980. A week later, he became the first athlete in program history to eclipse the 6,000-point mark, finishing with a 6,121 at the All-New England Championships. He set new PRs in the 1,500-meter run (the event that pushed him past 6,000), the javelin, and the pole vault.
“It was like a weight lifted off my shoulder that I finally got over 6,000 points and I felt like I could look beyond it now and set my goals higher,” he said.
At the Branwen Smith-King Invitational at Tufts University in early February, Allan broke his own school record in the heptathlon (for the second time this season). He finished with 4,782 points and demonstrated his range of talents by finishing first or second in five of the seven events, including PRs in long jump and hurdles.
With a few meets remaining, including the conference meet in New York City at the end of the month, Allan is in position to fulfill his goal of reaching nationals for the first time in his career. He was only 300 points shy of qualifying in the decathlon last spring.
“That’s the biggest goal that I’ve been thinking about for the past three years at Brandeis,” he said. “Seeing my older teammates go, it’s always been a goal of mine and I really hope that the score I have would make it.” He noted that for the past five seasons, his current score would have been good enough to make the trip.
Just last week, Allan added to his impressive resume by finishing the 60-meter hurdles in a time of 8.46 seconds, breaking a decade-old record by a tenth of a second.
“I think it really validates that what I’ve been working on and putting in these hours with my coach down on the track that it’s all paying off,” he said. “Once you break something, you get that confidence that things are possible and it’s not just an unachievable number in a record book somewhere, but something I can break and something I think I can keep getting better at.
“It’s really crazy. I didn’t expect to be in this position. It really just puts into perspective that I’m doing something Brandeis hasn’t seen before.”
Allan still has unfinished business with goals like reaching nationals and then finishing in the top eight to achieve All-American status, but he also recognizes that his track career is rapidly coming to a close and he is trying to enjoy the time that he gets to spend competing with his teammates.
“Just competing and practicing with my team everyday makes me so happy,” Allan reflected, “and I’m just living in the moment and appreciating it all before it comes to an end. I know it’s going to fly by so I’m just appreciating the little moments with my team.”
The UAA Championships will start on February 29 at NYU and the NCAA Championships start on March 13 at JDL Fast Track in North Carolina.