Olivia Jalbert high jumps over the bar at a USM home indoor track meet in Gorham this season. Photo courtesy of USM athletics

Heading into the indoor track season, University of Southern Maine’s Olivia Jalbert had just two goals: To break the school record in the high jump, and to qualify for the 2022 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field National ChampionshipIn the first track meet of the season, Jalbert accomplished both. 

The former Edward Little High School standout tied the school record in the high jump (1.64 meters), before breaking it three jumps later with a jump of 1.67 meters — or 5 feet, 5.75 inches — at the USM Open on Dec. 11. 

To get to that mark, Jalbert worked hard during the offseason. 

After her freshman year of outdoor track, Jalbert and the Huskies’ track and field coach, Rob Whitten, met to talk about areas that Jalbert could improve. The then-freshman felt like she was plateauing, and Whitten told her to work on her speed. 

“I had kind of reached the point where I went up two inches every two years,” Jalbert said. “Overall, my general strength helped, but when we ended the season last year — he always has meetings with us to go over the season — and my coach said, ‘Your form and technique in the events are great, the only thing you could improve on really is your speed. You’re not going to jump higher or further without it.’

“So that’s what I spent my summer doing. I was lifting four times a week and doing general strength circuits, but I was sprinting more than I ever had.”


USM’s Olivia Jalbert shows off her two gold medals after winning the long jump and high jump at the 2022 LEC championship meet. Photo courtesy of USM athletics

Jalbert’s work paid off instantly with the results she had in the first meet. Whitten took notice early on, too. 

“I think one of my old coach’s favorite sayings was, ‘The best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores.’ (Olivia) was the epitome of that,” Whitten said. “We sat down at the end of the season last year and we talked about what went well, what didn’t go well, where can we improve and obviously, knowing her, she’s very dedicated. It wasn’t anything crazy. She just put in consistent work this summer, got stronger and faster and we do some athletic testing, and it was apparent that she was in a totally different place athletically. We hoped that it would carry over to the season and the results, and it did. We thought there was an outside chance she could qualify for nationals, and it ended up coming true.”

It wasn’t always easy for Jalbert, who said the mental part of jumping has always been a hurdle for her. 

After breaking the school record in her first meet of the season, Jalbert didn’t improve on it and after a couple meets, she started to doubt herself. 

“I definitely struggled with over-thinking a lot because I had never that big of a PR,” Jalbert said. “I was stressing myself out more than I have by trying to keep that general mark of 5-3. I had a few moments where things went downhill a little because I was thinking too much. Whitten talked to me recently and asked, ‘What were you thinking about when you jumped high?’ I said, ‘I was thinking about nothing except planting my foot on the ground.’ The second I did that at practice, I was jumping high again.

“It was just one of those things that every time in practice I wasn’t jumping as high. I was over-thinking and thinking I was doing something wrong when, really, I was just thinking too much. I’ve been high-jumping since I was seven, so I know how to jump. I think that’ll be a key thing going into this weekend, mentally, just jumping and letting whatever happens, happens.”


Jalbert took her conversation with her coach and used it to her advantage at the Little East Conference Championships, winning the long jump (17-00.5) and the high jump (5-03.25). USM also went on to win its 21st LEC title. 

After a tough freshman year, Jalbert was mostly focused on winning the high jump at the LEC championship, as winning the long jump wasn’t on her radar before the season. 

“That felt really good,” Jalbert said of winning two events at LECs. “Especially last year, I was coming off a medical issue and I wasn’t allowed to do anything for two weeks until the LEC championship and still got second. I was like, ‘OK, my goal for next year is to win.’ I didn’t even know that long jump was possible, but once I started jumping this year, I was jumping eight inches further than last year. So I said, ‘Well, long jump is a possibility, too.’ Going into that meet, I knew I was seeded first for both and I really wanted to pull through for myself and my team. I wanted to get back to what I wanted last year and I did it.”

Now, Jalbert is preparing for the NCAA Indoor Championships in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She will compete in the high jump at 12 p.m. on Saturday. 

“It’ll be a great experience for Olivia because it’s her first season of eligibility because of last year’s COVID season,” Whitten said. “We didn’t really have a season last winter. … She’s a big-meet jumper and uses the excitement and adrenaline to her advantage. We are hoping she can go into the national meet and use that excitement and have another great meet.”

“It does feel really good,” Jalbert added. “I think it’ll be a really good learning experience. I am going to go and give it my all. No matter what happens in this meet, I am more than happy with what I’ve accomplished this season. Just making it to the (national championship) meet was my goal and I did it, so I’m just going to go jump.”

On Wednesday, Jalbert as well as teammates Zoe Barnes, Jaigan Boudreau and Hannah Corbett all earned USTFCCCA All-Region Honors. 

According to a press release announcing the honors, “The USTFCCCA recognizes the top five performers in each event from each region in Division III with all-region status in addition to Track Athlete of the Year and Field Athlete of the Year accolades.”

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