Stirling University’s faculty of aquatic excellence has its own pecking order, those who have graduated summa cum laude at its apex, those still soaking up tutorials and with tests to pass further down.
The Olympic champions, Duncan Scott and Kathleen Dawson, in what is effectively the first-team squad. Prospects like 18-year-old Allison, a finalist at last summer’s European Junior Championships, aspiring to follow in their slipstream and in the one below. “But you see them,” he declares. “They train after us all the time. And it sets the standard of what you need to be.”
A medley specialist, the teen has been handed hefty targets to shoot for. Promotion onto British Swimming’s 55-strong Lottery-funded elite squad when it was rejuvenated after a mightily-successful Tokyo Olympics means he has been identified as a genuine prospect for Paris 2024.
Expectations have been raised, and he knows it. “It's more on a training level,” suggests Allison, who came through the ranks at the Inverleith and Warrender clubs in Edinburgh before switching to Stirling last autumn.
“You have to have high expectations of yourself and how you perform. How you approach training and how you recover. Once you’re at that level you should prioritise swimming and realise that you should take it like a profession, instead of just like a hobby. I'm no longer a junior. I need to step up my game if I want to keep up with the big guys.”
That means combining the early leg of his psychology degree with even tougher graft than before. That the new Olympic cycle is significantly shorter than the one for Tokyo makes this year all the more pivotal. Just 21 places are initially available for Scotland’s team for the Commonwealth Games. Younger prospects have been challenged to make a case to displace some older hands.
Ditto for August’s Europeans in Rome, even if the preceding world championships might come too soon for Allison. Whether he is at all three, or none, he will consume it ravenously. “I'm a very big swimming geek, I can't lie,” he grins. “I know about everything, from Americans to Juniors. It was always interesting for me to see what people of my age were doing and what my event looks like.”
He will study the Stirling A-team with the keenest interest of all. “I know how many Fina (ranking) points I need to get into that squad,” he admits, although the coaches confirm other numbers factor into that equation. “But I love my current squad. It's more suited to my age.”
Yet Scott, newly a MBE, is a handy benchmark. The master in plain sight of the pupil, the door open for him to take his shot. “Certainly if I could be as good as Duncan, I’d take it obviously,” Allison smiles. “Because he's very good.”