New Kent's Karley Allen talks about her big senior year

There's some merit to the belief that the three-sport high school athlete is on its way to becoming a relic. More parents encourage their kids to specialize these days in hopes of earning athletic scholarships, and steer them to club and travel teams happy to facilitate the process.

But in some Bay Rivers District households, the three-sport athlete is a cherished family tradition. New Kent senior Karley Allen, the Daily Press Female Athlete of the Year, grew up in such a home, as did Warhill junior Devonte Dedmon, the Daily Press Male Athlete of the Year.

Allen's father, Eddie Allen, was a football, basketball and baseball star at New Kent in the 1960s before playing baseball at William and Mary. Her four siblings played no fewer three sports apiece at New Kent.

Dedmon's father, Dennis Dedmon, was a football, basketball and baseball standout at Gloucester High in the late-1970s, joined on many of those teams by Devonte's uncles, while his mom Gina played basketball, softball and cheered for Gloucester. Playing three sports is no chore for Allen or Dedmon, whose common thread is an uncommon joy of competition.

"I like playing three sports a lot," said Dedmon, who plays quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive back and returner in football, is a guard in basketball and an all-state sprinter in track. "My dad always said to be skilled in a lot of things, not just one.

"Everything is a competition for me. I try my hardest whatever sport I'm in at the time."

Allen is a state record-setting hitter for the Trojans state quarterfinalists in volleyball, a sport in which she was the 2012 Bay Rivers District, Region I and Daily Press Player of the Year. She was a prolific rebounder this past season in basketball, a sport she played for the first time in high school, and the star shortstop of a New Kent softball team that came within a whisker of winning the district title and of reaching the state tournament.

"I love competition," said Allen, who will play volleyball at the University of Virginia-Wise on scholarship in the fall. "Whether it's that three-game volleyball match, 32 minutes in a basketball game or seven innings in softball, nothing else matters during that time.

"I'm focused on the ball or whatever I can do to improve or help my team when I'm out there."

It wasn't always so for Allen. She was a self-described princess up to the age of 8, who loved Barbies and whose only sport was swimming because she didn't want to sweat.

She inevitably caught the family bug. That could've been from standing on the blocking sled while her father, a legendary coach at New Kent, tutored the football offense, or riding on the tractors with him as he dragged or cut the fields.

Or it could've been from watching older sister Deborah, a 10-time All-Tidewater District pick in three sports. But most likely it was because she was jealous of older brother Steven, the former Bay Rivers District Boys Basketball Player of the Year and, at three years older, the closest sibling to her in age.

"Steven always got recognition for sports, so I said, maybe I'll play sports and get some recognition," she said. "I played on a 12-and-under softball team that went to Florida when I was eight, and that forced me into becoming more competitive because they were all die-hard.

"When I committed to volleyball in seventh grade, any chance I had to touch the ball, I was taking it," Allen said. "I went to camps and always had a ball in my hands in the backyard."

She moved into the starting lineup at New Kent as a freshman, bypassing some seniors who felt her status as part of New Kent's first family of sports got her onto the floor.

"Some of them said the only reason I'm playing is because of my dad," she said of Eddie, who was athletic director and head basketball coach at the time. "As much as that hurt me, it kind of pushed me and made me the player I am today.

"I would stay after practices and get our setter to set me more balls. I would hit more balls, pass more balls and I would serve more balls. I would do anything I could just to prove myself."

It's safe to say that she has. Allen had 462 kills this past season, 100 more than any other player nominated for all-district or all-region. Her 371 digs were the most in the region for someone not playing libero (defensive specialist), while her 78 aces and 48 blocks ranked third among all-district and all-region candidates.

Allen is first on the all-time state list for spikes (2,925) and, of the seven statistical categories in which she ranks in the state career top 10, four involve hitting. Her big senior year included a 19-rebound game and an average of 11 boards per contest although she had barely picked up a basketball since seventh grade.

She batted .370 and anchored the Trojans defense in softball. Allen will finish her playing career for the East Squad in the Virginia High School Coaches Association Volleyball All-Star Game in July, proud to have carried on the family legacy at New Kent.