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'That's just the beginning' - Auburn silver medalist Nathon Allen sprints into sophomore season
Nathon Allen won an Olympic silver medal before arriving at Auburn, then set records in his freshman season.
Sept. 23, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - When Nathon Allen arrived at Auburn, he resembled a typical freshman on move-in day, unloading boxes of clothes and college essentials. But Allen's backpack contained an item unlike any his peers were unpacking.

An Olympic silver medal.

A member of Jamaica's 4 x 400-meter relay, Allen's team finished second to the U.S. at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Allen enrolled at Auburn in January, trained during the winter and burst onto the SEC and NCAA scene in the spring.

He finished second in the SEC Championships in the 400 meters, finished second again in June at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Oregon, then finished fifth last month in the 400 at the World Championships in London.

"I've traveled a bit in the last few months, yes," says Allen, as casually as one might say they've been to the beach or the lake over the summer.

In a sport where tenths of a second can mean the difference between finishing first or fifth, one of the world's fastest sprinters refuses to be ruled by the clock.

"I don't have specific goals," says Allen of his aspirations for his sophomore season after a phenomenal freshman debut. "Goals in a sense, are sometimes like limits."

"My overall goal is to just get better," he says. "My time, my place, sometimes it doesn't go as we want it. So that's why I don't like to set specific goals, because if you fall short, you're disappointed. I just want to improve on my time."

In Auburn track and field coach Ralph Spry, Allen has a philosophical ally.

"I never really like to tell my guys how fast I think they are capable of running, because I don't want them chasing marks and getting all wrapped up in times," Spry says. "At our level, it's about priorities, competing hard, commit yourself to excellence and then let the competition take care of itself. If you compete like that, the competitions we go to, it will take care of itself.



"For example, if you go to SEC Championships worrying about running a certain time, you're going to get it handed to you. You go there and worry about beating people, and the environment is such that the times will be there if you compete well."

'You can achieve it'

When Allen and his teammates won the silver in Rio, they celebrated by doing the Lightning Bolt pose, or "To Di World" as it's known in Jamaica, an homage to eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.

"Growing up and seeing Usain Bolt, it is like a motivation," Allen says. "It's like a sign to show that you can do it. When you watch documentaries and stories and see that he's coming from basically the same place that you're coming from, it shows you that whatever you want, or whatever the desire you have to achieve something, you can achieve it.

"Being around Bolt is a wonderful experience to see how the best person at the sport acts, how he behaves, how he carries himself."

Recruited by assistant head coach Henry Rolle and following a long line of Caribbean sprinters who have excelled at Auburn, Allen adjusted quickly to life on the Plains.

"I visited multiple other schools but when I came to Auburn, it just felt different," Allen says. "My parents went on every trip with me. When they came here, they felt at home. Maybe it was something that is innate.

"You're a part of a family, a part of a group. Everyone wants to be better. Everyone wants to get Auburn's name to a bigger level. From a track and field perspective, everybody wants when you go to a track meet and they say, `Auburn,' that they know that this is a school that produces very good athletes and a school that you can't just take lightly. But a school that, to me, you have to be fearful of."

'One of the smoothest runners I've ever coached'

After Auburn's men's team finished fifth in the NCAA Outdoor Championships last season, Spry will rely on Allen to help lead the Tigers in 2018.

"There's a calmness and a confidence about that, and the team feeds off that," Spry says. "If you have somebody who's been battled tested, and a lot of these guys have been that, it's going to really help this young team mature. I really see things really clicking pretty well on this side.

"It's going to be exciting watching him come off of a year like that. He can handle it. He has the temperament for it. And he's one of the smoothest runners I've ever coached. The sky is the limit for Nathon Allen. I'll be excited to watch him these next couple years."

After running an Auburn record 44.19 in London to cap a fabulous freshman season, Nathon Allen refuses to put a number on just how low he might go for a sophomore encore.

"That's just the beginning," he says.


Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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