DENVER — Allison Waterman annually contemplates what she’d like to achieve on the track before leaving preseason goal-setting sessions with her sheet blank.
Rather than working to reach the bar, Denver’s senior wants to set the bar at its zenith.
“I can’t write them down because I want to pass them,” Waterman said, addressing her goals. “I don’t want to set them as my limit. I want to exceed them and see how far I can go.”
It’s not often a senior emerges as a state title contender without previously placing in an individual race, but Waterman has bolted out of the blocks early this season to become a serious threat in Class 2A. She secured an automatic trip to her first Drake Relays after pacing herself to a championship 400-meter time of 58.55 on April 9 in Hudson.
That effort currently ranks fifth among this season’s all-class leaders. Only one returning runner in Class 2A clocked a faster time at last year’s state meet.
“We’re planning on going a lot faster, too,” Denver track and field coach Abby Fliehler said. “We’re still training really hard and won’t taper down until towards the championship part of the season. It’s been really exciting for her to hit these times and have that experience going into the Drake Relays.
“The Drake Relays is something that I think she’s earned quietly. It’s going to be a cool stage for her to show what she’s got.”
Waterman’s rise in track and field has been one of gradual improvement through a blend of hard work and supporting teammates. She initially went out for track as more of a social activity in middle school and didn’t own her first pair of racing spikes until high school.
Once an athlete with designs of playing collegiate volleyball, Waterman can reflect back to her sophomore track season and recall how unrealistic a sub-minute 400 appeared. She’s now verbally committed to run at Winona State and has developed from a 200- and 400-meter sprinter into one of Class 2A’s top 400- and 800-meter runners.
“After state track my junior year I realized this is what I want to do in college,” Waterman said. “I think it just happened over time because I loved my team so much and wanted to find that in college, too.
“When we’re at practices we have so much fun together. It makes hard workouts so much easier, and it makes the hard workouts fun.”
In addition to entering the week with 2A’s fastest 400, Waterman currently sits second in the 2A 800 with a time of 2:22.49.
“I did not want to run it last year because 400s were the hardest race,” Waterman said, addressing the 800. “This year I’ve gotten so used to the 400, and I love it, and the 800 is so much harder for me that I like the harder race. Even though it makes your legs hurt really bad, I like the difficulty.”
Waterman’s most memorable track moments to date have come within relay races. After plantar fasciitis prevented her from reaching state as a freshman, she qualified in four relays her sophomore year — anchoring Denver to a third-place overall finish out of the second of three sprint medley heats.
“That was probably one of the best feelings I’ve had because going into that race we did not expect to get a medal,” Waterman recalls.
Waterman capped her junior season by anchoring Denver to a fourth-place finish in the sprint medley and a sixth-place effort in the distance medley. Her team’s 4x200 relay was disqualified, and she missed the event final in the open 200 during her state debut in an individual race.
Tiffani Wright has joined Bella Laures, Ireland Pollock and Waterman from last year’s state sprint medley combination. The group not only appears to be the favorite to win a 2A title, but also revealed they can hold their own against larger schools earlier this season at the Eastern Iowa Track Festival in Iowa City.
Waterman held off Iowa City Liberty’s talented anchor Ashlyn Keeney for second place and nearly caught Des Moines Hoover’s Temira Goods in that thrilling race. The Cyclones’ top medley time of 1:51.59 leads 2A and is currently 11th statewide, which could hold up for an opportunity to compete against Iowa’s best next week at Drake.
“These girls had big goals at the end of last year and she (Waterman) has been a leader in getting girls in the weight room,” Fliehler said. “They’ve been lifting since November on top of what they’re doing in other sports.”
Stronger and faster, Waterman is quick to point out the important role teammates have played in her growth.
“Track is not an individual sport and you need your teammates there to help you and support you when you haven’t run your best,” Waterman said. “It’s just nice to have that group behind you.”
Always encouraging others, Fliehler describes Waterman as a coachable athlete willing to invest the time to find success.
“She’s always positive and not satisfied,” Fliehler said. “To not be complacent, and to go out and challenge yourself to be better, I can’t say enough how humble she is and hard working.”