Monmouth Academy coach Tom Menendez and Allen are leaving Sunday for Rome where the Lewiston junior will compete in the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships. Matthew Forgues of Boothbay will compete in the men’s 20K.

Allen will race in the Junior Women’s 10K race Saturday, May 7. And you don’t have to remind the Lewiston High racewalker that she is facing exceptional athletes from across the globe.

“I am not sure (how I will do), but I hope to PR. It would be awesome. I just want to go and do my best,” Allen said during a practice session at Bates College on Monday evening.

During the week, Pope Francis will meet with competitors at the Vatican.

But Allen is looking forward to traversing the course, which runs past one of Rome’s biggest tourist attractions — The Coliseum.

“Part of the race goes by the Coliseum so that is going to be really exciting,” Allen said. “Seeing all the competitors and seeing what I can do to improve on (will be exciting, too).”

Menendez, who has been coaching Allen for the past five years, also believes the Lewiston track star’s desire set a new personal record is a reasonable goal.

“The girls out there will be walking 46, 47 minutes. Of course we are talking world-class juniors,” Menendez said. “I am hoping she just has a good race. If she can improve on her PR, I don’t really care where she places. This is just well beyond anything we were imagining.”

Getting there is half the fun

Allen’s road to Rome was filled with drama during the World Cup trials in St Louis three weeks ago.

She wasn’t a long shot to qualify for the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships, but she had her work cut for her.

“We were out in St. Louis three weeks ago, and you have to qualify. You had to be top three in the race and have a qualifying time of 53.15 (minutes),” Menendez recalled. “Now, she had never walked faster than 55 minutes before in her life. So we went in knowing there that she was seeded fifth, knowing she had to take almost two minutes off her PR.

“She ended up taking off almost three minutes off her PR and beating three girls she had never beaten before in her life and ended up third.”

A visit with the Bishop of Rome

Allen is flabbergasted that she, along with the rest of competitors, will visit the Vatican and stand before Pope Francis.

“Beyond excited,” Allen said. “That would be really cool, like a life-changing experience. I am really excited about that.”

“A papal audience has been scheduled for Wednesday of the week that we are gone, and we are looking forward to getting in there,” Menendez said. “I don’t know whether we are going to get to meet him or anything else, but it is just exciting to be inside the Vatican.

“We are looking at 600 to 700 athletes from 80 different countries so … just to be in the same building for goodness sakes.”

Long walks around the track

Allen took an interest in racewalking in the seventh grade and has excelled in the sport every step of the way, which has taken her across the nation and now to Europe.

“I started in the seventh grade but started being competitive in the eighth grade,” Allen said. “I like it because it is so different and not a lot people don’t know about it. You get to educate people on it.

“There is not a lot people in racewalking so you get to know everyone on a personal level, which is pretty cool. You get to make lifelong friends.”

Menendez thinks a trip to the 2020 Olympics for Allen is not out of the question.

“She was was kind of good at it, and all of sudden she found out she was really good at it, decided to start working really hard and the rest is history,” Menendez said. “She always wants to get better. She’s not afraid to work hard. She’s really passionate about the sport. She really feels that this her event and she wants to take it as far as she can.

“When she is done with high school, she will be the best high school racewalking girl to come out of here, which means that the only other girl that’s better than her right now is Lauren Forgues (of Boothbay), who qualified for the Olympic trials a couple of years ago. So our goal when she graduates high school is to shoot for the Olympic trials in 2020. That’s the goal to qualify for the trials 2020 and say, ‘Hey, I am going to be the best racewalking girl in Maine ever.’”

Allen is well on her way.


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