Nov. 23, 2005
Florida State high jumper Shawn Allen is the perfect balance of student and athlete. The senior All-ACC honoree is the top Seminole in his event as well as one of the best in the conference. He has progressed every year he has donned Garnet and Gold, on the track as well as in the classroom. That is the foundation of competing at Florida State and something many strive to achieve everyday.
Allen didn't begin high jumping until his sophomore year of high school when the distance coach suggested that his tall, skinny frame would be good for the event. Not having a high jump coach, he taught himself the basics of the event through attending two training camps and reading books.
His drive and determination led him to the FHSAA Championships in 2000 and landed him in second place on the podium. Similarly, he found himself on that same spot the following year - this time a little more disappointed. But his senior year proved to be golden as he was crowned the 2002 state champion.
It was not hard for Allen to choose Florida State as his college of choice over offers from University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, University of North Carolina and University of Florida. His father and brother were on the golf team at Florida State so Allen, who grew up as a Seminole, had an easy choice when it came to choosing a school.
Allen has already made an impact at Florida State on and off the track. He brings a positive attitude to the track every day and comes with a willingness to get better and better with each practice. Improvement has been a leading characteristic with Allen and something he strives to do every day since he walked on the track three years ago.
"I've definitely improved since my freshman year," said Allen. "My first two years were greatly underachieved. I put a lot of pressure on myself. So that has been the biggest change. I stopped being scared and putting pressure on myself."
Allen had a right to be scared. His event is extremely tricky and takes focus and proper technique to execute well. The high jump event requires the athlete to use his own strength and technique to thrust him into the air up and over a pole set at a specific height. It transfers a horizontal speed into a vertical motion. The steps are complex and have to make it to where your body can go straight into the air.
Add to that the transition from high school to college was overwhelming. The bar in high school could be set at any height whereas in college many start at 6'2". Allen's college career began at major track venues, Florida and LSU.
"Instead of competing against the local high school, I was competing against UF, UNC, and LSU at my second meet," continued Allen. "I put pressure on myself because I was one of only two high jumpers at the time. I wanted to do well and make an immediate impact."
Allen also was not used to having a coach tell him what to do. This along with the pressure he was putting on himself was not a successful combination. But Allen quickly turned over a new leaf and began focusing more on the execution and less on the pressures that comes along.
"That third year was the best fall of the three years I had been here," continued Allen. "I worked really hard and I pushed myself in the weight room and on the practice field and gave myself a physical chance to perform right. I just had to get it right mentally during the season. I relaxed a little bit more last year and found it easier to perform when relaxed."
Allen received All-ACC honors at the ACC Indoor Championships that year and calls it his remembers it as one of his favorite track memories not only because of his individual performance but because of the team's success. FSU won the conference title on the last meet of the weekend. National champion Walter Dix ran in an injured teammates place and as Allen explains, the team was united and it really proved that everybody's points mattered, Allen's third place finish included.
The success is well worth the effort put in by the track and field team and Allen. Whether it is running stadiums, working on speed improvement, perfecting technique or training his jumps, he is dedicated to improving.
Allen's success isn't limited to on the field only though. He performs great academically as well. He is a history major and English minor and also finds time to work at the youth department at a local church.
"I chose history as my major because I understand it and remember it well," explained Allen. "I think it's important to know what has happened in the past in a truthful manor so we can make decisions in an informed light. I want to end up being a teacher so I don't want to have to revise history. If you don't have a truthful spectrum as to what has happened, you aren't going to be able to build on anything."
Allen finds time for this through his impeccable time-management skills. He understands that there isn't time for everything and it is necessary to cut something out everyday whether it is seeing your friends or not sleeping much. He credits his dad and brother for the man he has become. He looks to his family for support and guidance.
"I've learned everything from my dad and brother," Allen said. "They are the two greatest men I know."
Allen a great man himself and with his determination, politeness, confidence and heart, he will make it in track and whatever other journey he takes.