December 11, 2013

KENNEBEC JOURNAL BOYS CROSS COUNTRY RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Ben Allen

By Bill Stewart bstewart@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Ben Allen is not your prototypical runner.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Andy Molloy Ben ALLEN

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First team

Ben Allen Winthrop

Josh Horne, Mt Blue

Chris Cote, Waterville

Logan Moses, Messalonskee

Dan Lesko, Mt. Blue

Second team

Jason Stevenson, Maranacook

Erik Dodge, Erskine

Chris Pomerleau, Hall-Dale

Aaron Willingham, Mt. Blue

Austin Landry, Maranacook

Sure, the Winthrop junior puts in the miles in order to perform at a high level during the cross country season. But a year-round sport?

“Baseball is kind of my sport,” he said. “It’s always been my sport. Running was just something I tried in like sixth grade. It was something different. I just kind of stuck with it, even though I wasn’t the fastest guy out there.”

Allen was plenty fast in a breakout season this fall.

He finished second at the Mountain Valley Conference championships, second at the Western Maine Class C regional meet and fourth in the Class C state meet.

For his accomplishments, Allen is the Kennbec Journal Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year.

“Overall, I am pleased with my season,” he said. “I’ve come a long way. I’ve taken some strides. I look at the last few years and I wasn’t that good. In my sophomore year I started to get serious.”

The reasoning?

“I met guys like Matt McClintock and Josef Holt-Andrews (Class C state champ from Telstar) and saw how they put their schools on the map,” Allen said. “It motivated me. Next year my goal is to win the state championship, not just individually but the team as well. This summer I am going to put in a lot of miles to get ready.”

Allen turned in a strong, if not spectacular, season for the Ramblers.

He opened the season with a fourth-place finish at the annual Laliberte Invitational at Cony High School on Aug. 30. He completed the 2.4-mile course in 13 minutes, 58.4 seconds.

“When we went in to that one I wasn’t sure what I could do there,” Allen said. “But I ran a solid time for that course and that got me going. I said, ‘hey, I can do something here. I can compete with the big dogs.”

A little more than a month later, on Oct. 5, Allen turned in one of his bets performances of the season at the annual Festival of Champions at Belfast.

He finished the 5-kilometer race in a personal best 16:47.01. He was 30th out of nearly 800 runners.

“The Festival of Champions was a big race,” Winthrop coach Ed Van Tassel said. “We wanted him to go under 17 (minutes) and he did. A top-30 finish out of 800 runners is pretty impressive.”

Added Allen: “That race was a big confidence booster. That got me pumped up to finish the season strong.”

And Allen did finish strong.

He finished second at the MVC meet in 17:34. A week later, on Oct. 26, he finished second at the regional meet with a time of 17:13.58. He edged North Yarmouth Academy junior Matt Malcolm by about two seconds. Holt-Andrews, a senior, won both races.

“The Western Maine race was one of the best of the year,” Allen said. “(Malcolm) and I battled until the end.”

At the Class C state meet, Allen finished fourth in 17:27.49. He missed qualifying for New Englands by about six seconds.

“He had a tough run at states,” Van Tassel said. “It didn’t pan out how we had hoped, but it was still a good day. I think this will help him going into next year.”

Allen agreed.

“It was a disappointment,:” he said, “but I’ll use it as fuel for next year. I’ll come back better than I was. When I look back at the season, I’m pretty pleased. I couldn’t ask for much more.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640bstewart@centralmaine.comTwitter: @billstewartkj
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