By Charlie Pinkerton
Roan Allen’s javelin career has roughly resembled the inverse of one of his tosses; the quick-learner is once again soaring after stagnating midway through his only-few years of experience in the sport.
Allen was late to javelin, only picking it up in his final year at Ashbury College as a means to compete in track and field meets with many of his friends who did the same.
Turns out he was a natural. Perhaps aided by years of baseball experience, during which he played second base, outfield and pitched, Allen excelled in the field event. He’d go on to represent Ashbury at the 2016 OFSAA Track and Field Championships, where with limited training he finished 6th place in the province.
He had already been set on attending the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Sauder School of Business when a high school coach suggested he reach out to the university’s track and field coaches to see if his best distance, which at OFSAA was just over 53 metres, would be far enough for them to put him on the team.
“I thought that I’d be playing baseball when I was in high school; things change,” Allen said nonchalantly during a phone interview.
Skipping ahead to Allen’s second year at UBC, he hit a lull, failing to improve his throwing distance by any significant measure. This led him to focus on strength training last summer. Allen said he ignored throwing for four months, instead training with Gladiator Fitness and Strength Training here in Ottawa.
“I came into last season more prepared and ready to put in the work,” said Allen, whose plan worked out.
During his last season at UBC he improved the distance of his throws by about eight metres. He’s also achieved each of the benchmarks he’s set for himself for the past year.
Securing a Canadian singlet
Looking ahead from early in the year, Allen said he set three goals: Attend the national championships as part of a provincial team, win a medal at nationals and make a national team.
The 2019 Canadian Track & Field Championships were held in Montreal in late July. Lions and C.A.N.I. Athletics’ athletes combined at the senior and junior championships to win 24 medals in total, of which Allen won one of nine gold medals.
Competing under the B.C. banner, his second throw of the competition was his best. He launched the javelin 68.25 metres, about 1.5 metres further than any of his competitors would record.
Achieving the final of his year’s goals actually happened about a month earlier at the 2019 NACAC U18/U23 Championships in Mexico. Donning the Maple Leaf and competing against athletes from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, Allen finished in 7th place, throwing about 3.5 metres short of the national championship winning toss he would record in competition just weeks later. If he had thrown equal to his best toss of the season – which was just longer than 70 metres – he would have placed 3rd, but he was unable to muster that distance at the event held in early July.
His summer training had been tailored to maxing out his distance for the national championships. That, and that it was his first time competing for Canada, might have been what kept his throws short, he said.
“I guess it was just that first international experience, I guess I wasn’t really ready to be my best at that point,” Allen said.
Days away from the beginning of his fourth year at UBC, Allen says his goal is to continue to progress in the sport and work towards other top international competitions, like the Pan American Games and perhaps even the 2024 Olympics.
“Hopefully the next step is getting closer to 80 metres,” said Allen, noting that the 80-metre mark is a rough modern marker of the world’s top throwers.
Who knows if he’ll get there, but if his arc has been shown anything so far, it’s that it shouldn’t be a surprise no matter where he lands.