Courtney Allen has a number of household chores on her family’s farm in Ithaca.
Her favorite? Chasing sheep.
“When we would move sheep from pasture to pasture I was always in charge of chasing the little ones along,” Allen said. “I always loved running all over and I always preferred when they’d get loose so I could chase them.”
These days sheep aren’t all that’s being chased by the Ithaca junior. She’s also trying to help the Yellowjackets defend their Division 3 state cross country title from a year ago.
Allen, a two-time all-state selection, has been one of the key performers on a strong Ithaca team. She has been the Yellowjackets’ top runner since arriving to high school and has finished better than 12th in every race of her prep career.
Allen has added to that success this fall and opened her junior season by winning four of her five 5,000-meter races. She was also leading for a majority of her race at the Spartan Invitational recently before running out of steam because her legs were tired from doing farm work the previous day.
Ithaca coach Gene Lebron has noticed more of a killer instinct in Allen, who had won a combined two races her first two years of high school.
“That’s really one of the things she kind of lacked as a freshman and a sophomore,” Lebron said of the killer instinct. “We used to jokingly call her the silent assassin. She was always a good runner and didn’t win a ton of races because there were some great kids in our league. But she was just always running really fast and really good races.
“This year she has just been going after it and taking the lead early on and just keeps pushing.”
Allen said the take charge mentality has been fueled from track season. She fell during the 3,200 relay with 200 meters remaining during a meet in the spring and that moment has stayed in her mind.
“I think part of it for me is kind of a little bit of regret from track last year,” Allen said. “I know I shouldn’t be thinking about track since its cross country, but just the 4×800 and falling has really got to me and just knowing what I could have done but falling short.
“It’s just something that I could have fixed and I think it’s something I don’t want to happen to me in cross country.”
Allen hopes that drives her the remainder of the season as she aims to return to the state meet and place in the top 10. She’s also trying to get her time under 19 minutes while helping her team repeat.
“There are such good teams this year,” Allen said. “I think all of us think it would be really cool to win because not only it would be our second year (in a row), but also for our seniors on the team. I think that’s a little extra motivation.”