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Oregon receiver sits out spring ball to focus on Olympic dream

EUGENE, Ore. -- This August, Oregon Ducks wide receiver Devon Allen could be racking up some major airline miles.

Allen, who hopes to be competing at the 2016 Olympics in the 110-meter hurdles, joked about flying back and forth between Eugene and Rio in order to make sure he didn’t miss too many football practices during the Olympic track events, which run from Aug. 12-21.

And while that kind of an adventure might put plenty of miles into his frequent flier account, it would be a bit too much for the athlete, who has spent the spring focusing on track as he tunes up for the NCAA championships (June 8-11) and the U.S. Olympic Team Trials (July 1-10).

“I’m real confident coming off the indoor season,” said Allen, who has attended football practices once a week as a student coach. “I’m feeling pretty fast and I feel good. This keeps me excited and confident that I’ll be able to run really fast and make the Olympic team.”

Allen not only holds the fastest 110-meter hurdle time (13.40) of any collegian so far this outdoor season, but he also has clocked the fastest time among any American competing so far in 2016. The next three fastest times that have been clocked during this outdoor season were all run by professionals (Jason Richardson, David Oliver and Jeff Porter) and his closest collegiate competition is Syracuse’s Freddie Crittenden, who ran a 13.53 earlier this month.

Most impressive of all?

Allen says he’s not even 100 percent yet.

In his own mind, he’s hovering somewhere above 90 percent following the last 16 months of rehab stemming from an ACL injury suffered during the Ducks’ 2015 Rose Bowl win.

Allen had long made it known that one of his track goals was the 2016 Olympics, and following the 2014 NCAA title he won as a freshman, everything seemed to be right on track.

That is, until he tweaked the knee on the return against Florida State. Oregon track coach Robert Johnson, who was watching the game, remembers getting in touch with support staff in Pasadena before the Ducks had even boarded the plane to come home, already plotting what Allen would need to do and achieve in a certain timeline in order to get back on course for his Olympic goal.

First, even before surgery, Allen would need to get the swelling down. Then he’d need surgery. He’d need to follow protocol in getting back his range of motion, then putting weight on it. After that it was walking, then running, then hurdling.

But Johnson wasn’t worried about Allen taking this on.

“If you know Devon Allen, you know his mentality is strong,” Johnson said. “He’s the ultimate competitor.”

Johnson started to feel like Allen was definitely “back” during his second indoor meet this year when Allen raced a couple 10ths of a second better than his previous personal best in the 60-meter hurdles. In March, he went on to win the NCAA title for that race, setting a facility record in 7.56 seconds.

Now, it’s too early to be punching tickets anywhere and there are plenty of elite competitors who haven’t necessarily gone for their top times of the spring yet -- it’s too early to be peaking with the trials in July. But Allen certainly is stepping up as a college athlete who could very well be trading in his Oregon football uniform for a Team USA singlet in August.

And if that’s the case, Allen is hoping Oregon football coach Mark Helfrich will excuse his absences during fall camp if he’s wearing red, white and blue instead of green.