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Once-scared jumper has smooth landing

Starting the high jump on a whim, Allen ends up state champ and at FSU.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 2, 2002

LECANTO -- Shawn Allen's coach turned to him at a meet in 2000 and said, "Hey, go high jump, you're slender."

He never had jumped before.

On Allen's first attempt, he cleared 5 feet, 2 inches with relative ease. After a few misses, he leaped 5-8 to finish sixth.

"I was scared out of my mind," Allen said.

Two months later, he reached 6-4 to place second at state, a feat Allen matched in 2001.

This spring, the Seven Rivers Christian senior became the first state champion in school history, winning the Class A high jump title. The following week, Allen became the Warriors' first NCAA Division I recruit when he signed a letter of intent with Florida State. He chose the Seminoles over Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

"At first, I just thought it was another event to do and get points," Allen said.

Most of Allen's coaching came from books. A coaches manual taught him the finer points of the Fosbury Flop, the technique most jumpers use.

From that publication, he learned how to measure his steps using the Pythagorean theorem. A physics teacher at Seven Rivers Christian helped Allen locate his center of gravity during jumps. He later attended camp at FSU.

A two-time regional champ, the 6-foot-3, 170-pound Allen turned in a career-best performance of 6-11 midway through his senior season. Within days, he received phone calls from several college programs. In the state meet in Coral Springs, Allen defeated Plantation American Heritage's Rashawn Rembert in a jump-off after both cleared 6-6.

"Everything paid off," Allen said. "It was all the result of hard work. Now, I'm enjoying my title."

The championship medal hangs in his bedroom, next to the two runner-up medals.

"That's the centerpiece," he said.

Allen will begin classes at FSU in August. His father and brother played golf for the Seminoles, and Allen is a lifelong fan.

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