Dr. Tom Allen
Physician qualifies for the National Senior Games in track and field.
Dr. Tom Allen will travel to St. Paul, Minnesota, in July to compete in the National Senior Games, the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors.
At age 75, Dr. Tom Allen literally refuses to slow down. The sports medicine physician recently qualified for the July 2015 National Senior Games in track and field.
Allen is director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma Center for Exercise and Sports Medicine in Tulsa. There, he conducts clinical research in the area of exercise performance — on individuals from “weekend warriors” to elite athletes.
For 16 years, he also has served as the team physician for the OSU wrestling team. He travels to Stillwater once or twice a week and attends wrestling matches on the weekends.
Allen’s athletic bent began almost by happenstance. His southern Illinois high school had only 88 students, so all the boys participated in sports, he says.
He recalls the coach once said, “Boys, we need a track team.”
“So, we guys went out on the field behind the school grounds and we laid out a quarter-mile track,” says Allen, who was dubbed “a miler” by the coach.
At a later track meet, he witnessed the pole vault competition and was immediately smitten with the event.
The next fall, his family moved to Cicero, Illinois.
“I’m a pole vaulter,” Allen told his new track coach, despite having no experience.
However, he succeeded at the event and went on to compete at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas. One of his fondest college memories is competing at the prestigious Kansas Relays track meet, where he was pitted against late NBA star Wilt Chamberlain in the high jump and shot put events.
During medical school, Allen had no time for sports, but in his late 30s he started running again to get back in shape.
In 1981 as a Chicago resident he joined the University of Chicago Track Club and reconnected with an old coach. He began training with the UC Track Club, which allowed him to perfect his pole-vaulting technique at age 43.
Three-time Olympian Bob Richards was another of Allen’s famous competitors.
“To compete against him at a masters competition in Madison, Wisconsin, was a highlight for me,” Allen says. “I actually beat him that year. I vaulted 11 1/2 feet and he vaulted about 11 feet. To have my boyhood hero talk with me and to vault together was a real thrill.”
In his mid-40s, Allen also became interested in powerlifting through a friend, Bill Seno, who was a former world powerlifting champion from Chicago.
In 1981 at age 43, Allen placed third in the National Masters Power Lifting competition. Three years later, he placed third in the pole vault at the National Masters Outdoor Track and Field meet. In 1987, he placed third again in the event.
At the Oklahoma State Games in 1999, Allen set the age-group record at that time by lifting 405 pounds.
“It’s particularly important as one gets older to maintain muscle strength,” he says. “I still try to lift several times a week.”
In the past 10 years, Allen became interested in the martial art of Brazilian jui-jitsu. He attained a blue belt in the sport.
Though Allen’s energy and drive seem boundless, like all athletes, he is not immune to injury. But even that doesn’t stop him.
Last year, he wanted to compete at the national seniors meet in the 50- and 100-meter dashes. One week before a qualifying meet, he pulled a hamstring, an injury that takes several weeks of recovery.
Allen decided to “take it easy” that week by running in the pool and receiving some physical therapy. He drove to the meet with an ice pack under his leg.
The injury prevented him from getting down in the starting blocks as usual, so he had to use an unorthodox standing start.
“I had to finish in the top three to qualify for nationals,” Allen says. “It turned out that I actually won both the 50 and 100.”