While young children learned how to share toys, siblings Alyssa and Cole Allison learned how to share the spotlight in organized sports.
The two played youth soccer and participated in youth track clinics together.Instead of forming a sibling rivalry, though, they learned to support each other despite a highly competitive environment.
“We’ve worked well since our early ages,” said Cole, a sophomore runner on the cross-country team. “Small kids don’t usually play well together, but I guess that was something unique about our bond.”
The siblings are 10 months apart, but they are now both 21 years old. The bond they shared growing up is very much intact as the two live together now. The duo will also run for the Saluki cross-country team this season.
Alyssa, a junior runner, said her parents never really encouraged competition or a rivalry between them.
“Our parents didn’t play that up much, probably because I’m a girl and he’s a guy,” she said.
Alyssa, a transfer from Arizona State University, has been the more dominate runner of two dating back to their childhood.
“I knew how good she was,” Cole said. “I didn’t let it frustrate me; I was happy to support my sister.”
The two attended Festus High School in Festus, Mo., where baseball was Cole’s alternative sport, and softball was Alyssa’s. But cross-country was the niche sport for each.
The spotlight was on Alyssa in high school as she was a nine-time Missouri State champion and won the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and 4x800m at the state competition her senior year. Her time in the 1,600 was a state record.
Alyssa was also named the St. Louis Cardinals’ athlete of the year in 2009 and athlete of the year at her high school in both 2008 and 2009.
“Alyssa was so dominant that her performance demanded the respect of teammates and her competition,” said Bryant Wright, coach of the cross-country team for Festus High School.
Wright said although Alyssa was more focused and dedicated to the sport, Cole was also a very gifted runner.
“Cole is no slouch,” he said. “He was one of our top runners while he was here.”
Cole qualified for the state meet all four years. In 2009, his senior season, Festus won the cross-country boy’s state championship where he finished second in the conference.
Wright said Cole was able to grow into an even better runner once Alyssa graduated.
Alyssa’s ability carried her to the University of Arkansas and later to Arizona State University, but it was her bond with her brother that gravitated her to SIU.
“We’re only 10 months apart so I can’t remember a time when we were apart. I was the first to go college and I chose to go to Arkansas,” she said. “Being away from home was hard for me. I missed everyone, especially my little brother.”
The 2012 season will be Alyssa’s first season competing for the Salukis. Last season she ran unattached and won two meets. Cole redshirted his freshman year, but last season he finished 10th at the MVC Championship.
SIU cross-country coach Matt Sparks said he thinks the time away from each other will prove beneficial for both siblings and the team’s overall success.
“They were really good in high school, but with the time apart to develop their confidence and skills even further will hopefully make them better in college,” Sparks said.
Cole said he hopes to make major improvements over last season.
“Last season I finished 10th,” Cole said. “I’m hoping to crack the top five this season. I feel that is a manageable goal, but I would really like for the team to win conference. I want that the most.”
Although this is Alyssa’s first season, she said she already has high expectations.
The girls’ team hasn’t won a conference title since 1992. For the last three years, the women’s cross-country team finished outside of the top five in the MVC Championship. The team hasn’t finished better than 18th in the NCAA Regionals for the last two seasons.
“The team fininshed 7th last year, which was the lowest since coach Sparks started coaching here, so I think it’s possible for the Saluki girls to break the top five, maybe even top three,” Alyssa said.
Sparks said he thinks the siblings will be an asset to the team.
“They have an even closer relationship than most siblings do, because they happen to play and are good in the same sport,” Sparks said. “Hopefully that really plays to our advantage.”
Cole and Alyssa will begin their season at 5:30 Friday at the Saluki Early Bird meet.