“My first three jumps were pretty crap. I was flustered and needed some inspiration,” Andrew Allen complains when reflecting on a crucial juncture in the triple jump final at the National Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships last December.
Allan’s coach Lance Smith was absent due to health reasons and was sought urgently on the phone.
“I rang Lance and he calmed me down a bit. He told me to relax and just go for it,” Allan recalls.
Allan leapt a personal best 13.97m, an effort he has not bettered, and captured the open gold medal. What would have happened if Lance hadn’t picked up?
“I don’t know, but I don’t think it would have turned out as good,” Allan responds.
Sixteen years ago Lance Smith shifted from Auckland to Invercargill and started his athletics involvement in Southland as a volunteer coach. Smith now boasts over a dozen athletes in his stable who achieve to a high level nationally. How did Allan and Smith first meet?
“I was 14 years old and won a competition in Invercargill. Lance approached me and offered his support. I liked him straight away,” Allan reflects.
Three times a week, Allan travels 45 minutes from Gore to Invercargill to train with Smith. It’s proved to be a fruitful relationship. In 2015, Allan won his first gold medal in triple jump at the National Secondary Schools Championships. What is it about Smith’s approach that resonates strongly with Allan?
“Lance not only takes an interest in your athletics, but your personal life. I like to think about things and Lance is good at providing me things to think about that I can use to improve my jumping,” Allan acclaims.
In the past 12 months Allan’s thoughts have extended well beyond Southland. In April last year Allan travelled to Los Angeles to compete for three weeks. A US collegiate scholarship is an ambition.
“It was great to be exposed to tougher competition. Everything was so hyped up and bigger over there. I learnt a lot, but didn’t enjoy most Americans thinking I was an Australian,” Allan laughs.
In June, Allan won the Under-18 triple jump title at the Oceania Games in Fiji as well as capturing a bronze medal in the senior event and 4x100m relay.
In a fortnight Allan will travel to Australia for the first time to compete in the Australian Junior Championships in Sydney.
“Australia will be a big step up, but I have been looking forward to it for a long time and I’m confident of achieving a good result,” Allan enthuses.
Allan plans to play hockey in the winter while “training the house down” for the defence of his National Schools title in Dunedin in December. Unfortunately the Youth Olympics in Argentina in October are unattainable.
Allan’s parents run a dairy farm. Andrew is the middle of three siblings with a younger and older sister. His older sister Ann Marie has commenced a physiotherapy degree at Otago University this year.
P.S. Smith has coached 19 athletes to National honours. Jack Beaumont, Atipa Mabonga, Greer Alsop, Hannah Miller and Allan are among those to have medalled in international competitions. In 2012, Smith was named Southland coach of the year.
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