Camdyn Allen, a senior at Susquehanna Township, is set to graduate on June 9 before continuing his track and field career at Tiffin University in northern Ohio. After earning silver at the PTFCA indoor championships with a triple jump PR of 46-10 ½, Allen expected to contend for a PIAA title come outdoor season before it was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, Allen -- who is a primarily self-taught jumper -- finished 9th in the event at states while also finishing 13th in the high jump.
Last week, I sat down with Allen to talk about his lost senior year, his development as a triple jumper, and his goals and expectations for the future.
What has life been like for you this spring as a high school senior who has his life put on hold?
"It was a big change. Socially, it was an unexpected thing that happened to not be able to spend the last couple months with my friends. Academically, they worked with me a lot. I thought it was going to be very hard and a very big change, but they understood my situation and they've been working with me patiently because Cyber School is such a difference but it's also been a good jumpstart on college.
Personally with track and field, I think it was a really big letdown. I don't even know how to put it in words yet...but it hurt. It really, really hurt. After coming in second indoors, I was really looking forward to nationals and it would've been my first time going. That was back when quarantine first started, and now we're still in quarantine...I've been trying to keep track of the days we're missing but it just really hurts.
I was really looking forward to my senior year, knowing that it would be my best year. I'd been behind the best triple jumpers in Pennsylvania, (Milton Hershey alum, state champion and current University of Kansas All-American) Treyvon Ferguson, (Harrisburg alum and current Youngstown State school record holder) Jakari Lomax, all those guys, you know, I was really looking forward to it."
Talk about your athletic background. How did you get involved in track and field, and what really drew you to the sport?
"I started track in 7th grade. It was something me and my family never thought I would do. I grew up in Middletown, and I realized that I wasn't fast (laughs). You know, I was 4-11, 98 pounds and I wasn't as fast as the other kids so I saw a couple high schoolers at the jump pits and I thought I'd just try it out and stay active.
When I realized I was actually starting to improve my eighth grade year and I set my school's high jump record, we moved out to Susquehanna Township and I learned that they had a very competitive track and field team. Coming with their 4x1, always going to states, Penn Relays, all of that...but the only downside was that I never really had a coach. I had to teach myself through freshman and sophomore year. It wasn't a bad thing, but I would've loved the help.
So you've pretty much been coaching yourself?
"Yeah, I was self-taught. When I'd share that I was starting to improve on social media, multiple guys actually started to help me. I started to pick up from what they would say, but they only had so much to give me because I was so far away from them. (Shippensburg University All-American) Jalen Ramsey, he's been a big help to me and he's really taught me about strength and conditioning, ever since sophomore year.
And YouTube...YouTube was my best friend! I've watched probably every single triple jump video there is. But I don't really like to speak about coaching myself because you know, it's the same for everyone, you still need to jump far."
So in a technical event like triple jump, how do you try to replicate something you see in a YouTube video when you're out in the pits?
"I realized I wasn't the strongest kid, I was always small...so I've focused on my technique a lot. I'd watch every little detail of the videos and replay it back over and over, constantly watch and observe. The technique was just a lot for me, because without it I wouldn't be where I was.
It's the same thing at meets, competing against the older guys like Treyvon, (State College alum and current Penn State jumper) Lance Hamilton. As I was watching those guys improve I was taking notes. Little do they know, they taught me a lot. I'd always try to see what worked best, try different things at practice."
You went from finishing 9th at states last year to runner-up indoors this year. How did it change for you when you weren't observing and learning as much as competing for a win?
"You know, it really motivated me when I came in second but nothing really changed. I'm a very competitive person but at the end of the day I'm just having fun. If I would miss a jump I wouldn't get mad-I'd just look at what I messed up, I'd try to fix it, and I'd move on. If I lose, I lose but I'm at the meets for me to improve, not just for a medal.
So spending enough time at the jumping pits the last few years, I notice everyone has their own little routine during a triple jump competition--Treyvon wouldn't smile, just pull his hood up and go hide until his next jump. How would you describe your routine?
"(Laughs) Yeah, that's not me. I just like being outgoing. I wouldn't say I like to help, but if a guy messes up, I want to let him know he'll get it next time. I'm not so competitive that I'll have a mad look on my face. To me, football is a different type of competitive sport, but track is just something you need to enjoy.
For me personally, when I start to take it too seriously, that's when I start to mess up. When I can go in there with an open mind, that's when I have my best jumps."
Talk about the last few months as the pandemic evolved. Did you remain optimistic that the season would come back or school would restart, were you able to keep training?
"I was still training even on quarantine because I always really hoped that I could have my senior year. The longer I was waiting the more I lost hope, but the desire to train never went away with college coming.
At this point, it's just a patience game. All the athletes out there, we just need to be patient because we're all in the same spot."
What was the college recruiting process like? How did you get connected with Tiffin and what was it about them that made you want to go there?
"I think they actually reached out to me on twitter. I did a lot of research on it and it was just the best fit for me because it wasn't too big or too small, and the program is just phenomenal. It almost became that family bond when I met the jumps coach.
The recruiting process was something fairly new for me and my family because we really hadn't had anyone go to college for a sport, so the recruiting process. Once they got in contact, Tiffin helped me through it and they said that if I didn't decide on them they'd still help me, and that was just really genuine to me. Putting track aside, I just really liked them-they felt like family."
As you advance your career, do you have any athletic goals that you want to achieve or accomplish?
"At states I jumped 46-11, that was my last PR, and if outdoor came I hopefully would've gotten 48. But now that I've been able to use this break to get stronger I want to get 49 or 50 by my freshman year of college.
I know they just cancelled junior Olympics...but I would really appreciate if I could have some opportunity to compete this summer."
How do you feel going through this experience will impact you for the rest of your life?
"It really humbled me because again, you never know when it's going to be your last chance. On the positive side, I got to spend a lot more time with my mom and I'm giving her more time before I go to college. And this is going to be my grandson or granddaughter's history book someday. They'll come to me and ask 'What's this about the coronavirus?' so I'll always have something to talk about.
But from a negative standpoint, I didn't get to do what every single senior in the past did. No senior picnic, no graduation, all that type of stuff. Not being able to be with my friends for the last couple months before we all split apart...that really hurt."
Just to wrap up on a positive note, looking back on everything you've done in track and field, is there a special moment that really stands out to you?
"My sophomore year at Penn State, (PSU high jumper) Devin Bradham was helping out at the meet. We were at 6-2, and Devin yelled 'Hey kid, get the clap up!' and at the time I didn't really know what the clap was-I watched a couple videos of, like, the Olympians doing it...but I'd never done it before so I said 'Alright, I'ma get it' since I still hadn't gotten 6-2 as a sophomore yet.
So I got it going, and (Bradham) was just getting it loud in there-you know how Penn State's stadium is. The whole right side of the stadium was just a wall of noise. So I did my approach and I was so hyped, I cleared it by like 4 or 5 inches and I ended up taking first place. I just can't forget the sound in that gym, man...it was fun, and that's what made me love track."