WINTHROP — Winthrop cross country coach Ed Van Tassel would like to see Ben Allen continue with his running career in college. He sees so much potential that remains untapped and a body that hasn’t been ravaged by the kind of mileage most elite cross country runners have put in.

Van Tassel, who has coached Allen since middle school, also understands that baseball has long been Allen’s favorite sport. And he’s pretty good at it, too. In the spring, he’ll be one of the top pitchers in the Mountain Valley Conference.

Presently, Allen is focused on helping the Ramblers’ basketball team become a contender in Class C. But he hasn’t ruled out a future in running, either, even if only recreationally.

Regardless of whether he adds to his running resume, Allen put together a remarkable high school cross country career. For the second consecutive career, Allen is the Kennebec Journal Boys Cross Country Athlete of the Year.

Allen dominated the MVC, winning every conference race, including the championship meet, fairly easily. He also picked up his first Western Class C title with a winning time of 17:19.64.

The highlight of the season, though, was his 16th place finish at the Festival of Champions on Oct. 4 in Belfast, which attracts hundreds of runners from around the state, New England and the Canadian Maritimes.

“The best race of my career was at Festival this year,” he said. “Finishing in the top 16 left me with a better feeling about how my season went after the fact.”

The season didn’t have a storybook ending. He finished third at the Class C state championship. It was a disappointment considering it was the goal Allen had been work towards all year, but he has no regrets.

“It’s kind of cool if you think about my situation as a guy that plays baseball and basketball. I think it worked out really well for me,” Allen said. “I’m not saying it would have worked out that way for everybody, but I think we got as much out of it as we could.”

“What he accomplished as a cross country runner without being involved in endurance sports year-round is phenomenal,” Van Tassel said.

Make no mistake, running may not have commanded Allen’s full athletic attention, but he still put in the mileage and the work to become the runner he is. It wasn’t all natural talent.

“He had a great summer of preparation,” Van Tassel said. “He set the goal early on to win the state championship and to have the team with a chance to win a state championship, and he wanted to play a big part in leading that.”

Allen had been setting lofty cross country goals for a while. It was just that, for the first three years of his career, he knew he faced the near impossible task of overcoming his biggest rivals in the MVC and Class C, who also two of the greatest cross country runners the state has produced — Madison’s Matt McClintock and Telstar’s Josef Holt-Andrews.

Allen, who is exploring Division III college to play baseball for but would consider continuing his cross country career in college like McClintock and Andrews if it was the best fit academically, paid close attention to his predecessors’ drive to dominate the sport.

“The biggest thing I learned from Matt and Joe is it’s such a hard sport,” Allen said. “For them to make it look as easy as they did really impressed me.”

“They put their schools on the map (with their cross country success),” he added. “That’s kind of what I’ve been trying to do.”

There’s no doubt Allen left his mark on his school, regardless of how his winter and spring endeavors turn out.

“He’s up there with a lot of big names in Winthrop cross country history,” Van Tassel said.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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