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Allen Running in Top Form

Track and field: Cal State Northridge sprinter improves technique to become a top junior sprinter.

July 18, 2002|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rashaad Allen of Cal State Northridge credits improved running technique for "95%" of his development into one of the nation's top junior sprinters this season.

There's no denying, however, that the disappointment of his senior season at Oakland McClymonds High last year has contributed to his success.

Allen, who will begin his sophomore year at Northridge next month, failed to advance to the state high school track and field championships in the 100-meter dash last year. Yet he placed fifth in the 100 in 10.39 seconds in the World Junior championships in Kingston, Jamaica, on Wednesday after running 10.34, the fastest time in his career, in a quarterfinal Tuesday.

The junior event is the highest level for athletes under 20 years old.

Allen had the fastest high school time in the state in the 100 during the start of his senior season with a 10.69 clocking. But an upset loss to Garry Jones of Oakland Skyline in the Oakland Section championships in May prevented him from advancing to the state championships in the 100 for the third year in a row.

"I spent two or three years trying to lead up to the point where I was going to be the top in the state and for me to not make it really hurt," Allen said. "This whole season was about making sure that never happened again."

Nonetheless, winning the U.S. junior title--as Allen did at Stanford on June 22--was not among his goals at the start of the season. He wanted to be Northridge's top sprinter and the best freshman sprinter in the Big West Conference.

Allen placed second in the 100 in the Big West championships in May, but his breakthrough came in the U.S. junior championships when he ran 10.39, then the best time of his career, to defeat a field that included five sprinters who began the meet with faster all-time bests.

Allen never gave much thought to running mechanics in high school.

"When I first came [to Northridge], I was just running off whatever kind of talent I had," he said. "But once [Northridge assistants Jeff McAuley and Rena Reider] helped me make some technical changes, I realized it makes a big difference in how you run."

McAuley says that the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Allen had a graceful, flowing running style in high school, but his long stride was better suited to a quarter-miler than a sprinter.

"We just had to get him to take shorter, quicker, more powerful strides," McAuley said. "We figured that once he did that, his times would start to drop."

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