Come this fall, if the much-decorated Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School boys' cross country team gets an opportunity to compete, it will have a national champion leading the charge.
Ryan Allison recently ran a virtual 3,200-meter race by himself on the Spartans' track, and not only beat out 25 other competitors from all parts of the United States who had entered, but did so in a personal-best time of 9:20.4.
"Running alone is a totally different sport than running with a group," Allison said. "You've got to have complete concentration."
Veteran Burnt Hills track and cross country coach Chip Button was on hand for Allison's June 18 performance that was part of the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation-AthleticNet virtual track meet.
"I've got to give him a lot of credit," Button said. "The way he did it, running alone, is really, really difficult to do."
"It's definitely not what I am used to," said Allison, who won the 3,200 in February at the Section II Division II indoor championships and also at the Section II state meet qualifier. "I am used to latching on to someone and using that to my advantage."
Allison qualified for the national final two weeks before with a virtual run of 9:58. He had spent time prior to that recovering from a knee issue.
"I was not in the best shape for the qualifier," Allison said.
Healthy and motivated, the 16-year-old beat his previous 3,200 mark by five seconds in becoming a national champion. The race runner-up clocked a 9:27.3.
"I wanted to do something that really counts," said Allison, alluding to his outdoor spring track season that was taken away due to the coronavirus. "I am surprised not many people jumped at the opportunity to do this."
"That's a heck of a time for running by himself," said Pete Sheridan, a neighbor of Allison and president of the Greater Capital District Track, Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame.
Just a few days before his national 3,200 victory, Allison placed first in the Virtual Route 50 Mile that was sponsored by CAPTAIN Community Human Services. Allison ran his mile on the Ballston Spa bike trail, and topped more than 40 other male entrants of all ages with a personal-best 4:24.
"I think running the mile solo was a good experience and helped set him up for that [the 3,200]," Button said.
Allison received authorization to run on the Burnt Hills track before doing so.
"His parents called Mr. Brunson [Burnt Hills principal Tim Brunson] to get it set up. It wouldn't have been possible to find another track," Button said. "Certainly Mr. Brunson's help went a long way for Ryan to do it."
Allison's sophomore cross country season included a win at Section II Class B meet, a third at the state public school Class B meet, and a second at the state federation meet. Burnt Hills took team titles at each of those events.
"He's looking forward to having a good summer and preparing as if we will have a cross country season in the fall," Button said.
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.