When Valarie Allman stepped in the circle at the 2019 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships last weekend, it was different. The Silver Creek alum returned to Drake University to compete with some of the best discus throwers in the country, but this year, it was her first time there as a full-time professional athlete.
She was also looking to defend her title, one she claimed last year after focusing much of her time on her NCAA career at Stanford.
“That was something my coach talked about going into it,” Allman said. “I think last year our focus was so much on the collegiate season that by the time the U.S. Championships got here, when I won it was such a great surprise. It wasn’t the focus, but it was super exciting. This time around we spent so much time really thinking about what the whole season looks like.”
It’s been a long road to this point in Allman’s career, one that was started by intuition and a unique reason to try throwing the discus in the first place.
“I was really into dancing and the high school coach said they understood I had other commitments but asked me to just come to the track whenever I could,” Allman said. “I tried running and I tried jumping, and then one day the throwers were having practice and they said that anyone who came and tried out the events could come to the spaghetti dinner. I decided that I wanted to try because I really wanted to go to the spaghetti dinner and ended up just having a weird knack for it.”
The spaghetti dinner that motivated her to try the discus led to her excelling at the high school level and receiving an offer to throw at Stanford. In college, Allman set the school record in the 20-pound weight throw, became a two-time Pac-12 Discus Champion and a six-time All-American. It eventually led to her surprise win at the USATF Outdoor Championships last year.
Now Allman was back, looking to defend her title. All she needed was one throw to show her improvement in the discus had continued and her future was as bright as it looked the year before. That throw was achieved when she hit 64.34 meters (211 feet, 1 inch) to become a U.S. National Champion and qualify to represent Team USA at the IAAF World Championships in Doma, Qatar, from Sept. 28 through Oct. 6.
.@vallman123’s 64.34m winning throw from the 2019 🇺🇸 Champs!
✅ Win 2nd US Title
✅ Qualify for 🌎 Championships in Doha 🇶🇦
Earning your first title at the highest level is difficult, but I’m really proud of Valarie for defending the 👑.
— Zebulon R. Sion (@CoachSion) July 30, 2019
“It was so exciting. It was so rewarding,” Allman said. “It definitely makes me appreciate how many people have helped me get here. There have definitely been a lot of people that have been a part of this journey. It makes me all the more excited for the rest of the season, especially now being able to go to world championships and represent the United States.”
Life as a pro
The win Sunday was the fourth for Allman in 2019. She won the discus in a couple of meets in California and then won at the Grande Prêmio Brasil Caixa de Atletismo back in April. After that, she finished sixth at a meet in Sweden and fourth at a meet in Morocco before her win in Iowa over the weekend.
So far, Allman has proven she can handle the rigors of competing at the highest level across the globe in her first professional season.
“This season has been different than every other season with it being my first year as a professional,” Allman said. “Our goal was to try to get into competitions where the best of the best were to see how we held up. It is high stakes and a lot of pressure and travel, but I think it’s really helped refine my technique and refine my mindset and the craft of throwing the discus.”
There won’t be a lot of time to celebrate as she will be back to the circle very soon. Before going to the world championships, she is scheduled to compete in Birmingham, England, and Paris as part of the IAAF Diamond League, a circuit of track meets with elite talent across the globe. If things go well, she will qualify for the IAAF Diamond League Final in Brussels, Belgium. In addition to her run in the circuit, she will compete in a USA vs. Europe meet dubbed “The Match.”
Chaos would be the right way to describe the competition, travel, training, recovery and other commitments that fill up the calendar planner during the year. But for the 24-year-old, it’s what she needs in order to perform at the highest level.
“I think that I realized this year that when you’re traveling and you want to excel in something as best as you can, balance is sometimes not what you’re striving for,” Allman said. “I think when you’re all into something, it’s figuring out how to optimize training, how to optimize your recovery and get sleep when you can in order to be prepared. These next two months, it’s just going to be about figuring out how to keep everything running as best as possible.”
“Sometimes, it’s just a lot of hard work, getting a few extra hours of sleep or for training. As an athlete, this is the most exciting time of the year. This is where you get to see where you are at. The rest of the year is when you put in all of the hard work for when competition comes around. I feel really thankful for all of the support from my coach, my sponsor (Oiselle) and USA Track & Field. They’ve helped me be able to put in that quality work early this year. Now we can just compete and see where we are at.”
Should the winning trend continue, it begs the question on if another big meet could be on the horizon for her professional career: the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“For all athletes, the big goal is to go to the Olympics,” Allman said.
But, she’s quick to ease talk about that. For now.
“While it’s definitely something that I’m hoping will happen, I think that this year is filled with all of the right steps and hopefully we can do them well to get us to that goal,” Allman added. “It’s hard not to think about the Olympics since it’s less than a year away. But I think there are so many big, exciting things coming up between now and then that we’re trying to do well at.”
Setting the example
One sacrifice Allman made for her professional career is putting her master’s degree on hold and moving to Texas. The move came as her coach was given the chance to coach at the University of Texas and wanted her to come and be a volunteer coach while continuing to train together. The move and coaching position required her to get out of her comfort zone, and it seems to have paid off.
“I’ve never really been interested in the coaching aspect of it to be honest, but I absolutely love the college environment,” Allman said. “College athletics is one of the most beautiful celebrations of what a team is and what it means to be so motivated and invested in something. Being able to be a part of the University of Texas staff and help the student-athletes in the limited role that I do has been so exciting to see them grow. I love my time here in Austin. It’s been rewarding, not only helping me with my own career but being able to see other people working hard and getting after it is really motivating.”
Seeing that progress from those behind her has opened the eyes of the former Colorado high school star.
The coach helping next generation of throwers is the same girl that tried throwing the discus in order to go to a spaghetti dinner, the same girl who later watched YouTube videos of professional discus throwers growing up that she now competes against. Today, she is one of those throwers that the next generation can look up to.
Add that to her job description, but this part she doesn’t seem to mind.
“You have to let yourself dream a little bit to see and think about how far you can go,” Allman said. “It’s so important to find people that can help you get there. I think that if you work hard and find people that can make the difference and make it fun and exciting for you, it just kind of takes off.”