Matt Albert didn’t follow the traditional road to individual track and field championships. The Hall-Dale junior wasn’t a season-long favorite, notching dominant seed times and distances that marked him as the clear man to beat at each meet he entered.

After all, seedings reflect what you’ve done all season. Albert learned earlier in his career that the lights have to be at their brightest and the stage at its biggest for him to do his best.

“Usually when I have a lot of pressure on me it helps me,” he said. “When I’m under pressure I know I have to give it my all.”

Albert answered the call in the biggest meets of the year, winning long jump and javelin titles at the Mountain Valley Conference championships and then a javelin title at the Class C state championships at Massabesic High School. His winning throw of 163 feet, 7 inches was the third-farthest throw across all classes in the state championships, and helped earn Albert the distinction of being the Kennebec Journal Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Hall-Dale’s Ashtyn Abbott, Cony’s Travis Nickerson and Monmouth’s Zach Wallace were also considered.

“This year was amazing,” Albert said. “I was not expecting to go this far. It was just a great season.”

Albert achieved those results as an underdog of sorts. He wasn’t the top seed at the Mountain Valley Conference championships or at states, yet managed to top Mountain Valley’s Chris Glover each time.

“I didn’t think he was going to win it. I thought he had a chance, but realistically I thought it was going to be top three,” coach Jarod Richmond said, referring to Albert’s performance at the Class C championship. “It just came together. I was more nervous than he was when it came down to him throwing javelin at states and it looked like he had a chance to win it. … It was his last throw. He bombed it way out there.”

The state meet continued what was a late-season trend of progression for Albert. He had a goal of reaching 150 feet at the start of the season, but had only reached 147 by the time the MVCs came around.

Suddenly, Albert’s distances surged. He reached 155 feet, 8 inches to win the conference title, and then nearly climbed another eight feet by the state championships. After only two meets, he had boosted his personal record by over 16 feet.

“We knew that he was capable of doing it. I think it was just the way that it happened (that was surprising),” Richmond said. “He was at the 140s, next thing you know he’s in the 150s, you’re like ‘OK, wow.’ Then it’s like ‘Oh, you’re in the 160s?’ At one point we just expected him to add 10 feet every time he threw.

“All of a sudden he figured everything out and he added 30 feet over three throws.”

Albert said a tweak to his form and technique made the difference.

“It was definitely my run-up,” he said. “During the season I’d just jog up to the line and throw it, but at the end of the season I started sprinting up and throwing it, and it really helped with my distance.”

The change just enhanced what Richmond said are Albert’s natural talents in the event.

“He’s got the raw ability, it’s just kind of fine-tuning that,” Richmond said. “From a fundamental standpoint, his javelin throws are always the most fundamentally sound, he generates a tremendous amount of arm strength.”

Albert gave the Bulldogs more than just a javelin threat. He won the MVC long jump title at 20 feet, 2.75 inches and was fifth in the event at states, and he was fourth in the high jump at MVCs.

“He’s definitely got the athletic capabilities that I think we could put him anywhere on the track team and he’d do a great job for us,” Richmond said.

Well, not anywhere.

“I can’t do any long-distance running, for sure,” Albert said, laughing.

He’ll just have to stick with the javelin and jumps next year, where he’ll look to defend his state championship, this time as the sort of favorite he spent the spring chasing down. He’ll also look to improve on his New Englands performance, where he was 26th in the javelin.

They’re big goals, and they come with big expectations.

“That’s definitely going to put a lot of pressure on me,” Albert said. “But I’m looking forward to it.”

The way he handles pressure, that’s no surprise.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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