Big Ten title is latest feat for Albert

After making it into the Carlson School, the same motivation showed on the track.

Kent Erdahl

Minnesota high jumper John Albert performs his best when he can relax and breathe easy, and when it comes to the junior’s signature event, he breathes easiest in the thin air of 7 feet and above.

Albert made that air apparent when he cleared 7-3 on Sunday and claimed the Big Ten indoor high jump title.

A surprising liftoff

When Albert was a senior at Bloomington Jefferson High School in 2000, he cleared the ninth best height in the nation at 7-0 1/4, but Albert said the height was unexpected.

“Other than that I was pretty consistent at like 6-8,” he said.

The 7-foot jump came during Albert’s region meet, where he quickly out-jumped his competitors and said he began having fun pushing himself.

“I think the next guy was at like 6-4,” Albert said. “So I was just going for my best.”

In the state championships, Albert dropped his height by 5 inches despite his expectations to keep clearing 7 feet.

“It was kind of a setback,” he said. “I thought it would be something that would happen all the time.”

A little turbulence

When Albert came to Minnesota, he remained confident in his jumping and academics. But in his first two years, he faced more pressure than he thought.

As a freshman, Albert was sure he wanted to be in the Carlson School of Management but was denied admission and forced to work his way in.

“That’s when I started putting more pressure on myself,” Albert said.

The pressure worked for Albert in the classroom. He was admitted to the Carlson School as a sophomore and now has one of the top grade point averages on the team.

But the increased intensity did not transfer well to his jumping. In Albert’s first and second seasons with the Gophers he did not clear 7 feet in competition.

“I would get psyched out when the bar went up to 7-0,” Albert said. “After two years not jumping as high as in high school, I put too much pressure on myself.”

Cruising altitude

Albert kept a high level of intensity while working in practice coming into this season for the Gophers, but teammates Kevin Netzer and Josh Paulson helped Albert have fun and relax again during competition.

Netzer and Paulson were the two top jumpers for the Gophers during the last two seasons, and this year their friendly rivalry rubbed off on Albert.

“We really like to compete against each other in practice,” Albert said. “It makes it a lot more laid back when you’re competing against your friends.”

That attitude transferred to competition this season. All three regularly cleared 7-0 heading into the conference championships and when the top three finalists of the high jump were announced in Ann Arbor, Mich., only the Gophers were left.

“We just wanted to give them hell,” Paulson said. “When they raised the bar for the final three we just smiled at each other.”

By the end of the competition nobody was smiling bigger than Albert.

“It felt good to finally beat them in a meet that mattered,” Albert said. “But I know any given day they can come out and do the same to me.”

With a Big Ten championship under his belt, Albert doesn’t seem to mind his teammates breathing down his back.