By Rubin E. Grant
Trey Allen wasn’t sure how he would perform in a national track and field indoor meet earlier this month.
The Oak Mountain senior high jumper was dealing with tibial stress syndrome, a shin splints injury, when he entered the competition in the New Balance Nationals Indoor meet March 8-10 at The Armory in New York City.
The injury occurred after he dunked a basketball in the days leading up to the meet.
“Going into the meet, I wasn’t thinking I was going to win,” Allen said. “I had an injury and my mind was everywhere.”
“I prayed, used some Icy Hot, soaked in the tub, took two Advils and went out and jumped.”
The remedies worked better than Allen could have hoped as he soared to win the 2019 National High Jump Championship. He became only the second athlete ever from Alabama to earn that distinction in the history of the event.
“It was a good performance, and I’m very grateful to God,” Allen said. “I was surprised I did as well I did on a bad shin. While my goal was to break my 7-0 record – I had three close attempts – I can’t complain about winning the national championship. It’s an honor to bring back to Oak Mountain High and the state of Alabama.”
Allen entered the meet as the No. 1 ranked high school high jumper in the nation for the 2019 indoor season. He had broken the U.S. high school high jump record earlier this year by clearing 7 feet.
The national competition began with 21 top high jump finalists from around the country. Opening height for the event started at 6-3.25. Then the bar was raised as follows: 6-5, 6-7, 6-9, 6-10.75, 7-00.25.
Allen jumped consistently with no scratches until height 6-10.75. The stellar performance earned him the National New Balance Indoor High Jump Champion spot. He also was honored as an All-American for the second consecutive year.
More than 3,700 of the country’s best sprinters, hurdlers, runners, jumpers, throwers, walkers and relay crews competed in the national event.
Allen set an indoor AHSAA state record for the high jump, clearing 6-11 at the Ice Breaker Meet in early January at the Birmingham CrossPlex. Allen came back to the CrossPlex a few weeks later to break his own record by clearing 7 feet during the Martin Luther King event.
Allen jumped 6-9 at the state indoor championships on Feb. 1, setting a Class 7A meet record and claiming his first individual state title. He tried to clear 7-1 but grazed the bar on all three of his attempts.
This is just Allen’s second year as a track athlete. He had been playing football as a 6-foot, 4-inch wide receiver and basketball as a small forward.
The Eagles’ track coach, Riley White, witnessed Allen doing some spectacular dunks in the gym and recognized his jumping potential. He encouraged Allen to go out for track.
Allen decided to jump at the opportunity. Last winter, he gave up playing basketball so he could compete during the indoor and outdoor seasons. After finishing his football career last fall, he returned to track.
“I really didn’t think about track until coach White asked me,” Allen said. “I loved football and wanted to play in the NFL. But track changed my mind and now I love track. I want to keep working and become good enough to be an Olympian.”
Allen admitted he was awkward at first. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “I was just jumping. I didn’t know about twisting my back as I went over the bar.”
“I jumped 6-2 and I didn’t know if that was good. Coach White told me it was, so I kept going.”
Last summer, Allen earned All-America honors at the New Balance Nationals in North Carolina with an outdoor jump of 6-10.25. He cleared 6-10 in the AHSAA Class 7A outdoor state championships last May and set a new Class 7A state record.
Allen’s 7-foot clearance earlier this year landed him a full track and field scholarship to Louisville. He already had accepted a partial scholarship from the Cardinals, but the coaching staff dangled a full scholarship if he cleared 7 feet.
“That motivated me,” Allen said.
“He’s a natural, and that’s what Louisville sees in him, a kid whose ceiling is significantly higher than 7 feet,” White said.
Allen won’t be strictly a jumper in college.
“They’re going to use me in some other events, jumps and relays,” Allen said. “They’re going to get their money’s worth out of me.”