Displaying Athletic Versatility During PDS Career, Allen Excited to be Two-Sport Athlete at Amherst
DOUBLE PLAY: Gwen Allen shows her form in lacrosse and field hockey during her Princeton Day School career. Allen, a 2019 PDS grad, is heading to Amherst College, where she will be playing for both its field hockey and women’s lacrosse programs. She starts preseason practice this week for field hockey as the Mammoths prepare for their season opener at Mount Holyoke on September 5. (Photos by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Gwen Allen displayed a special versatility during her athletic career at the Princeton Day School.
Allen developing into a field hockey and lacrosse standout through her four years for the Panthers while also playing one season of ice hockey and two seasons of basketball for good measure.
For Allen, keeping busy all year led to improvement in her two main sports.
“I feel like not having an offseason was good in terms of fitness and helping with the hand-eye coordination for lacrosse and field hockey,” said Allen, who graduated from PDS in June and helped the field hockey program win one state Prep B title and the lax squad take two Prep B crowns in her time at the school.
“In general, the athleticism, running, and being able to eliminate a defender; all of that stuff went hand in hand.”
Helping the PDS field hockey squad get on a good run proved to be a highlight for Allen.
“Our first year was rough, but then my second year, we did really well when we made the Mercer County Tournament final and won the Prep B championship,” said Allen.
“Everyone took it a lot more seriously, and that continued as we kept getting better. After sophomore year, people considered us to be a well-established program which inspired everyone on the team to try harder and live up to the expectations. It was gratifying and a big sense of accomplishment in having come so far; being able to consecutively make the Prep B championship from my sophomore to my senior year was a really big deal too.”
As for lacrosse, Allen walked into a high-powered program as the Panthers were defending Prep B champions coming into her freshman year.
“That was definitely different than field hockey; it was super competitive and there were also a lot more girls who were doing it,” said Allen.
“It helped so much being around good players. My classmates who were playing with me on varsity when we were freshmen had to play up and step up our games to match what we were practicing with.”
Looking to play college sports, Allen saw herself specializing in field hockey and initially committed to attend Lafayette College and play for its D-I field hockey program.
But deciding that she preferred to be a dual sport athlete, Allen changed course, withdrawing her commitment from Lafayette and ending up opting to attend Amherst College, where she could play both field hockey and lacrosse.
“In my junior year, I realized that I loved lacrosse; it was a lot more fun,” said Allen.
“I burned out on field hockey because I was playing club field hockey and indoor field hockey and I didn’t know if this is what I wanted to do. I also didn’t know if Lafayette was the right school for me. I didn’t really look at many other places; they gave me the option and I don’t know if I was too eager to take it. I decided to look for somewhere where I could play both sports, like a D-III school, specifically the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference). They are really strong academically, so I decommitted from Lafayette because I wanted to find somewhere I could play both sports and find a better fit academically.”
Allen’s athletic versatility proved to be a good fit for the NESCAC programs.
“Every NESCAC school I looked at said there were a ton of girls who do two sports and there are some girls that do three sports,” explained Allen.
“There is a lot of crossover between the sports; there were a lot of double athletes, so that was definitely encouraged.”
The encouragement she received on and off the field at PDS also helped Allen feel more comfortable at a smaller D-III school.
“The biggest thing that I think of PDS regarding how I have grown is being surrounded by really incredible adults,” said Allen.
“I had such good role models in terms of coaches and teachers who taught me a lot. It is so special, the teachers that PDS has and the connections I was able to make with the coaches, teachers, and other members of the faculty. Because PDS is so small, you know a lot of people in your grades and across grades through sports, classes, and clubs. You can talk to so many different people and understand different opinions and stuff was a big deal for me.”
In deciding between the NESCAC schools, Allen developed a connection with Amherst.
“My top two choices were Hamilton and Amherst,” said Allen. “I loved the field hockey coach at Hamilton and I loved the campus. The deciding factor for me was location. I felt like Hamilton was super remote and Amherst has the town. I liked that campus vibe a lot better.”
Recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined her for most of her final lacrosse season at PDS, it is full speed ahead for Allen as she looks forward to hit campus this week to starting preseason practice for field hockey.
“I was up at Amherst in the first week of July for camp, which was really fun,” said Allen.
“There is a preseason conditioning packet from the team that I am trying to do. It is lifting, running, and drill workouts so I have been trying to keep up with all of that.”
Heading into her freshman campaign at Amherst, Allen is looking to help the Mammoths from the start.
“I am both excited and nervous, I would like to be a difference maker right off the bat,” said Allen.
“I am ambitious, I want to get playing time and see the field right away. I want to be in really good shape and make an impact from the second I get there.”