Alex Florent ’15 stares ahead at the horizontal bar mounted 5 feet and 10 inches above the ground, tuning out the noise from the other events taking place on the field before jumping over it. It was at this height during the Los Angeles County Championships meet last year that Florent jumped the highest mark recorded by any high school girl in the state that season.
Florent first started running track when she was five years old, but didn’t begin high jumping until five years ago.
“I hated it at first,” she said. “I used to run but with growing and everything, I had a lot of growing pains. I picked up high jump one day by accident.”
Florent began high jumping after she joined the summer club team The Californian Comets.
She stayed with them for five years, up until she enrolled at Harvard-Westlake last year. Coming to Harvard-Westlake as a freshman, she was eager to be a part the varsity track program and jump for the team.
During her first year on varsity track, Florent broke the school record with her jump of 5 feet and 10 inches.
Not only was the jump higher than any jump recorded at a girls’ high school meet last year in the state, but it also stood as the third highest jump recorded at a girls’ high school meet in the country.
“I felt really lucky to be the first in the state and the third in the country. Especially since I was a freshman and I was new to Harvard-Westlake, it was cool to be able to put my name out there and see myself ranked at the top with a lot of good jumpers,” she said.
This year, Florent is hoping to high jump six feet, a feat, she said, she’s gotten close to several times.
“My biggest challenge is and has been trying to fix all of my technical issues,” Florent said. “There are a lot of things about my approach that I’ve been having trouble with and am working on, and I tend to get frustrated often. It’s tough, but I’m working on being more patient with myself.”
Florent also admits that adjusting to the Upper School life this year was another challenge.
“So far the Upper School is a lot harder than the Middle School and I hate the stairs,” she said, “But it’s doable.”
Though she has big goals for her future in high jump, balancing her academic life with her sport is equally important, she said.
Rebecca Armstrong ’14, who was on the track team last year, praised Florent for her determination during practice.
“Alex’s work ethic is impeccable,” Armstrong said. “It definitely shows when she competes in her events.”
According to Florent, there are several high jumping styles, but there are two approaches that are most common.
There is an approach in which the jumper runs in a C-shape before jumping and a style that requires a J-shape run.
Often, the approach before jumping is thought to be the most important step to clearing a high bar.
Florent practices and competes using the J-shape approach, which she says is the style more common of the two and the approach that feels more natural to her.
In addition to being able to tune out her surroundings and dedicate her total attention to her jump, Florent has several pre-meet rituals that she makes sure she never skips. With her for each meet are her red blanket, white crew socks, and black nail polish with a tuxedo painted on her ring fingers.
“I have a lot of little things that I do to prepare for meets,” she said. “I’m not really sure how all of these traditions got started, but I make sure nothing ever changes for meet days.”
This summer, Florent hopes to be able to join the United States’ World Youth Championships Team.
The World Youth Championships, organized by the International Association of Athletic Federations, is a competition between young track stars from around the world every two years.
Comprised of the top 16 to 18 year old track stars in the world, the World Youth Team has to personally invite their members to join after they’ve qualified, making it an exclusive organization.
“If I’m able to make their team, I can jump with them in Spain,” she said. “That will be a great experience.”
However, her biggest goal is being able to qualify for and compete in the Olympics.
“My biggest accomplishment regarding high jump, though, is going to be making the Olympics in 2016,” Florent said. “I’ll be 19 years old. I already have it mapped out! Any medal and I’ll be happy.”