With the coronavirus’s sweeping arm shutting down all athletic competitions, it was exceptionally devastating to former Sealy High School and Sam Houston State jumper Tristyn Allen, who said she trained the hardest she ever had leading up to this outdoor season for the Northern Illinois Huskies and coach Connie Teaberry as a graduate transfer.
“This was probably the hardest - not probably - it was the hardest I have ever trained,” Allen said in a phone interview last Sunday morning, April 26. “The hardest I've ever worked. (Coach Teaberry) pushed me so hard. I ran so much more, she expected so much out of me and that was something I really liked. She expected so much, which is why I gave her so much.”
Although she said she should have been preparing for nationals this week instead of a road trip home, her jumping career at Sealy High School didn’t start until her sophomore year after what was described as a coming to Jesus meeting by coach Ray Dabney.
“I don't think she jumped with us her freshman year though we had a come to Jesus meeting and I said, ‘You want to do it your way, you don't have to jump,’” Dabney said in a phone interview last Friday, April 24. “That was an amazing story because she came back her sophomore year and she worked. She did everything I asked her to do, minus some things, but she made it to state that year but we didn't get on the podium.”
When Allen finally took the podium as a senior, she was joined by Charlette Janicek in distance events and finished as the third-highest scoring team at the 4A State Championships with only two girls competing, in their first year in the classification.
Allen took silver in both the long and triple jump and just missed out on scoring points in the high jump but after Janicek took second in the 800-meter run, Sealy held a four-point lead in the team competition after nine of 17 total events. By the time Janicek’s second silver medal came in the mile, the eventual champion Uplift Hampton Prep had taken the lead by 19 points with one event remaining.
At that point in May of 2015, Allen had already known she was going to be jumping for the Sam Houston State Bearkats the following year but might not have known she’d go to the Southland Conference Championships each of the four years she was there. In addition, she competed in three NCAA West Preliminaries, building up to a three-event meet as a senior.
Due to an injury, Allen still had one outdoor season of eligibility left after completing her bachelor’s degree at Sam Houston State. However, an opportunity arose to begin a master’s degree in digital marketing at Northern Illinois and jump for Connie Teaberry who represented the USA in the high jump at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
“I already knew I wanted to get my master's and then on top of that I wanted to finish my last season of track, so it just happened to work out perfect,” Allen said. “When I met (Teaberry) in person she was the sweetest, most genuine person. After being in a four-year program, you can read past all the bluffs. I knew exactly the questions to ask. She sold me whenever I first came up here.”
Dabney, too, knows the impact working with an Olympian could carry on an athlete and he mentioned trying to soak up everything he could when he most recently saw Allen.
“Knowing what it takes to be an Olympic jumper and athlete, (for Tristyn to be) working up under that coach that means more - because you want somebody with experience,” Dabney said. “You don't want to buy a Porsche from somebody who's never owned a Porsche. She knows exactly what to train and how to train and I tried asking all the questions I could. When (college athletes) come home … I try to pick their brain and get everything I can get from their coaches.”
Teaberry said Allen certainly caught the attention of the coaching staff and there were big visions for her graduate season, but that too was taken away because of the coronavirus.
“We have an NCAA All-American triple jumper in Jehvania Whyte,” Teaberry explained over the phone Friday afternoon. “She's a five-time (Mid-Atlantic Conference) champion in the triple jump. With Tristyn's ability, we actually thought, ‘She's gonna take Jehvania's records down.’ Our expectations were pretty high just based off what she had done at Sam Houston. We were expecting some big things and I really think that she could probably qualify for the Olympic trials.”
Although the trials would be the next step athletically, Allen said with some changes to her master’s program in the wake of the pandemic, she’s still unsure of what she will do with the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA.
If Allen does suit up for the Huskies, Teaberry has big visions for her season. If Allen doesn’t suit up for the Huskies, Teaberry has big visions for her future.
“Whether Tristyn decides to come back or she moves forward with the next phase of her life, she's going to be successful,” Teaberry said. “Her work ethic, her personality; she's such a wonderful person, any job, graduate school program, whatever it may be would be lucky to have her. It's been a pleasure, even though we didn't get to do what we set out to do at the beginning of the year, it has been a pleasure working with her and having her here on campus.”
Allen also seemed to display the same passion for her eventual career in digital marketing as she was disappointed in not being able to jump after everything she’s invested into this year.
“My dream job would be doing partnership marketing,” Allen said. “I would be the person that would figure out the who or the what to help influence the company. I would be able to work with athletes, YouTubers, Instagram influencers, bloggers, things like that. It's a lot but it's stuff that I really would enjoy doing.”
There will be a ladder to climb before she reaches her dream job, however, but she knows she’ll have to pay her dues before she can work her way up to the podium.
“I know exactly what I want to do and I know exactly how to get there, it's just getting there,” she said.