Franklin distance running star Allie Fons healthy and relaxed as track season prepares for its peak
Allie Fons is no longer the center of attention anymore, and she kind of likes it that way.
She looks around at her immensely talented teammates on the Franklin track team, such as Jensen Ritzow, and smiles, knowing the futures of both the track program and the cross country team are in very good hands.
The Franklin distance running star is a senior now, two years removed from her halcyon days as a phenom who took the state by storm, winning WIAA state cross country titles in both her freshman and sophomore years.
Aggravating, debilitating and painful shin splints robbed her of close to 1-1/2 years of seriously competitive running, leaving her a shell of herself for much too long.
It was monumentally frustrating, she said.
"It was slow coming back," she said. "There was a lot of rest involved and different kinds of exercises that my physical therapist put me through, but every time I tried to come back, it seemed I get a relapse.
"I had to pretty much let it run its course."
Finally, sometime last fall, she started feeling a little like her old self. She finished fifth in the sectional cross country meet and then ran much faster a week later at the WIAA state meet in Wisconsin Rapids, taking 21st out of 189 runners.
It was not the state championship level she was accustomed to, but it was a serious start.
"The season went well," she said. "I was just so happy not to be injured. It just encouraged me to keep running."
She worked hard all winter and felt good going into the start of track practice, but she kept her expectations low-key, not knowing what to expect.
Then came the Knights of Columbus Relays on the state meet track at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse on April 26. She ran a blistering leg for a season-best time, finishing the 4x800-meter relay, and then hit the track for the open 3,200.
That's when the old Allie reasserted herself, turning in a state honor time of 11 minutes, 14 seconds, in dominating the talented field.
"I honestly was really, really happy about it," she said. "I just had fun with that race. My coach (distance coach Regina Schindel) had designed some pretty good workout sessions, but I didn't see this happening."
Saber head coach Jack Hervert said he thought Fons could run fast, though that wasn't the point, he said.
"I never labeled this as be all or end all race for her," said Hervert. "She was going to run whatever she could run that Saturday. It was just going to be a life experience for her. She's done everything she could to go back to this level, but the success was already there long ago.
"All the preparation she did the last couple of years, that's success right there, because we're all going to be thrown curveballs in life, and it's how we deal with them that matters. She's happy with where she's at right now, and that's all that matters. What the stopwatch says is irrelevant."
Her attitude reflects that assessment. There are many young, talented runners on the track and cross country teams, and Fons relishes her role as something of a "mother hen" to them in her final go-around before heading off to Wisconsin next fall.
"It really is fun to be a role model," she said. "I love the energy (of the younger runners) and I love their energy. It really keeps me excited. I come to practice ready to go. It's really been liberating."
So, she's going to relish this last month of her high school, hoping it ends back where it belongs, on the state track in La Crosse June 6 and 7.
The big meets started this week with the Southeast Conference Relays on May 6. The Sabers have won three major meets already this year, but with leaders like Fons paving the way, coach Hervert has the team mentally ready for the big end push.
"We've had some great experiences already, but we all know that this season blows by so quickly," he said. "We'll be ready."
And so will Fons, who is planning on majoring in either exercise and movement science or nutritional science.
"It's been so great to be part of this team with all these successful girls," she said. "We all work together and help each other out."
Hervert said Fons has set a great example for the rest.
"We're just ecstatic because of the way she feels about things," he said.
Along those lines, Fons isn't worried about reaching the top of the mountain again.
"I don't have any specific goals right now," she said. "I just want to stay healthy and just have some fun with it all. Whatever happens, happens.
"Because it's been fun kind of fun sliding under the radar," she added, laughing.
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