Track and Field: Stanford's Valarie Allman’s success hinged on spaghetti dinner
Sometimes you find your calling because of reflection, hard work or sheer luck. Other times, it’s because you crave a spaghetti dinner.
Stanford senior Valarie Allman is among the favorites to medal in the discus throw Thursday at the World University Games. Four of the 12 finalists have personal bests over 60 meters, but no one has matched the world-class distance that Allman has recorded.
Allman, a two-time Pac-12 champion and four-time NCAA All-American, redshirted the 2017 outdoor season in order to tutor under recently-hired Stanford throws coach Zeb Sion for an additional year. She expected to improve, but her gains have launched her from up-and-comer to the one to watch.
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In April, Allman threw a mark of 64.69 meters, which stands today as the second best throw by an American and eighth best worldwide this year. After a third place finish at the USA Track and Field Championships, she earned the opportunity to represent the United States at the IAAF World Championships in London. Now, a chance for gold in Taiwan.
“It’s a weird and crazy story,” the 22-year-old said to reporters ahead of qualifications.
Allman’s first love was dancing. She became accomplished in ballet, jazz and hip-hop. During her freshman year of high school, she was picked by choreographers from the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance?” to join a traveling dance workshop. She went to school on Longmont, Colorado, during the week and travelled on weekends.
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Longing for a sense of community within her school, she joined the track and field team.
“I started jumping and running,” Allman said. “And then, one day, the throwers were getting ready to have their annual spaghetti dinner and they said that anybody who came and practiced that day could come to the dinner.
“And I love spaghetti. It’s one of my favorite foods. So I went and tried it and just kind of found that I had a weird knack for throwing discus.”
Coordination and balance learned in dancing carried over to her new sport, which she came to dominate. After failing to qualify for the state tournament as a freshman, she placed third as a sophomore, broke the state record and won as a junior, and shattered her own marks as a senior.
That success offered her the opportunity to go to Stanford, where she will graduate in the fall with a degree in product design before enrolling in master’s courses while she competes in her final year of eligibility.
After her athletics career ends, Allman’s aspirations are to use her education to start a social entrepreneurship business that is focused on helping communities.
“Doing non-profit social work has always been something that’s taken a big piece of my heart,” Allman said.