University of Saint Francis head track & field coach Kyle Allison watches on as his team competes.
University of Saint Francis head track & field coach Kyle Allison watches on as his team competes.
FORT WAYNE – Over the past nine years he has been with the University of Saint Francis, Head Coach Kyle Allison of the cross country and track & field teams has brought his expertise with him and has bolstered the program with his teams and athletes earning accolades that the track & field program had never accomplished before.

Coach Allison is from Warsaw, Indiana where he graduated from Warsaw Community High School. Before arriving at Saint Francis, he graduated from the University of Indianapolis where he played both indoor and outdoor track & field for the Greyhounds specializing in the hammer throw.

“Track & field has always been life for me,” Coach Allison said. “It has been something that has brought my wife (Sarah) and I together, she and I were both track athletes, and it has always really been a part of my life. During my senior year, I knew that I wanted to have a career in it no matter how I did it.”

Upon graduating, he served as the head throws coach at Manchester University where he coached Manchester throwers to four school records and one conference record.

“When I took over the head coaching job at USF in 2016, our program needed a spark, and one of the biggest things was trying to bring the fun back into the sport,” Coach Allison said when asked what he was looking to change and improve. “In the previous years, we weren’t as competitive, and the runners didn’t seem to be enjoying track as much, so I really set out to make it more enjoyable. We talk about breaking records and setting new personal records was something we really focused on through the first couple of years.”

Since assuming the role of head coach in 2016, 54 school records have been broken and set combining indoor and outdoor track & field between the men and women.

15 school records have been set with the men’s indoor track & field program: the 60-meter hurdle & dash, 200-meter dash, 600m, 800m, 1,000m, mile run, triple jump, pole vault, long jump, weight throw, distance medley relay, 3,000m, 4x400 and 4x800 relays.

10 school records have been set with men’s outdoor track & field: the hammer throw, shot put, 110- & 400-meter hurdles, 400m, 800m, 1,500m, 3K Steeplechase, the 4x400 and the 4x800.

On the women’s side, 14 school records have been set with the indoor program: the 60-meter hurdle & dash, 200-meter dash, 600m, 1,000m, mile run, 3,000m, 5,000m, 4x400 & 4x800 relays, distance medley relay, long jump, triple jump, and pentathlon.

Then with the outdoor track & field program, the women have broken and set 15 new program records during Coach Allison’s tenure: 100m, 200m, 800m, 1,500m, 3K, 5K, 10K, 100-meter hurdle, 3,000-meter steeple chase, long jump, triple jump, javelin, and the 4x100, 400- & 800-meter relays.

Initially, it was not easy getting the students to buy in to the program and invest their time necessary to succeed day in and day out at the collegiate level, but Coach Allison has found a way to get his athletes to embrace the atmosphere at USF and embrace the opportunity that lies ahead of them.

“One of the toughest parts of being a head coach and getting the students to buy in to your program and mission,” Coach Allison said. The students that we have on our team that believe in our program have gone to another worldly level, and we’re going to continue to ask the students to keep making sacrifices and to be in it for somebody other than themselves. When they look back on it five or six years from now, they’ll understand why they put in all the work that they did.”

In addition to over 50 school records being set in less than a decade, the USF Cougars have also had 11 individual Crossroads League Titles including six in the women’s shot put in 2017.

One of the athletes to earn the achievement on more than one occasion was Clista Hellwarth in both the javelin and pentathlon back in 2019.

Hellwarth’s efforts have made her the program leader in the javelin with 41.42 meters and the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 15.99 seconds.

During the 2021-22 indoor and outdoor season, the Cougars saw five of their runners earn NAIA All-American honors, making it the most All-American honors in one sport for one season in USF athletics history, surpassing cheerleading that honored four All-Americans in 2018.

“Ironically, we’ve had 12 All-Americans over the past two years, but I think the best is yet to come,” Allison said. “I think we still have team titles that we are looking to win with both cross country and indoor and outdoor track & field. There are some big names that we are looking to overcome; for instance, Taylor won the conference tournament the past eight years, and we are aiming to be the team that knocks them off their perch.”

The five students who earned the All-American achievements this past year were freshman Spencer Carpenter, sophomore Joe Painter, juniors Leah Hall and Alex Ebetino, and senior Jordan Konstanty.

On the men’s side, Carpenter and Konstanty both placed first at the Crossroads League Championship. Carpenter capped off a historic freshman year by winning the 1,000-meter run at the indoor championships while setting a new school record of 2:28.77. But he did not stop there.

At the outdoor championships in early May, Carpenter went on to win the 1,500-meter run out of 35 runners, to earn All-American accolades for both indoor and outdoor track for the season. He also set another school record in the 1,500 with a time of 3:52.90, 17 seconds better than the runner-up at USF back in 2001.

“We knew Spencer was really talented coming in as a freshman, and one of the things he wanted to accomplish was becoming an All-American as a freshman, and he was able to pull that off,” Coach Allison said. “He has some of the best racing IQ I have ever seen. He does not really put himself into a bad situation and understands strategic tactical moves when it comes to championship racing. He always seems to make the right move at the right time.”

In the hammer throw, senior Jordan Konstanty showed significant improvement during his collegiate tenure. His freshman year in 2018 he threw for 37.6 meters, only to jump eight yards as a sophomore to 45.41. After the COVID season struck, he picked back right where he left off as a junior in 2021 improving to 52.43 meters, and then topping off at 58.97 meters as a senior.

In total, a 21-yard improvement over a four-year span for Konstanty, who earned All-American accolades for the outdoor season and became the program leader in the weight throw, surpassing the runner-up Nick Adams from 2010 by over three yards.

In the pole vault, sophomore Joe Painter earned himself an individual championship at the Crossroads League championships with 4.55 meters and put himself as the program leader in the pole vault for both indoor and outdoor track.

On the women’s side, junior Leah Hall earned her first NAIA All-American honor during the indoor season placing third in the 3K at the conference championships, and then placing seventh at the NAIA championships.

Hall’s biggest achievement came at the Reggie Thomas Collegiate Classic on February 12 where she won the mile over 41 runners with a time of 5:14.35, earning an NAIA B standard. Then at the outdoor conference championships, Hall won the 10K over 15 runners with a time of 36:37.99 while setting a new Crossroads League and USF program record.

On the other hand, junior Alex Ebetino has earned the most All-American awards out of all of them as she currently has six through her first three seasons.

Ebetino came into her junior year already with three, and swept all three seasons (cross country, indoor track, & outdoor track) as a junior.

At the outdoor conference championships, Ebetino won the 5K over 22 runners with a new program record time of 17:55.77, before placing third out of 18 runners at the NAIA championships with a time of 17:36.89 to capture her sixth All-American honor.

“Alex was someone who I remember vividly her senior year of high school and freshman year of college told us that she wanted to qualify for nationals as a freshman,” Coach Allison said. “We looked at her high school times and knew that she would have to improve by a couple minutes to qualify at the collegiate level, but she was willing to put in the work to do that. She has these goals of being a multiple-all-American and has classified herself as one of if not the best in program history.”

Coach Allison will enter his 10th year with the university for 2022-23 with both Ebetino and Hall primed for another record-breaking senior year. Only time will tell how many more All-American accolades are collected.