When Jaylene Everett was just 4 years old, her mother signed her up for gymnastics.
“I was just always a hyper kid,” Everett said. “I was always climbing on everything. My mom was like, ‘We’re going to throw you in a sport where you can run around all day.’ And I just stuck with it.”
Everett had been a multi-sport athlete until she quit soccer in sixth grade to focus on gymnastics, which increasingly became more of a time commitment.
She seems to have picked the right sport.
The sophomore all-around recorded the Owls’ second-highest score on vault during their home-opening win on Sunday.
Everett earned the Eastern College Athletic Conference Specialist of The Week award on Jan. 16 after notching a career-high 9.825 on the floor exercise against Towson University and the College of William & Mary on Jan. 14 to tie for third.
“I was actually really surprised [by the award],” Everett said. “I didn’t get any sort of award for anything last year, so getting this really shows my improvement from last year’s gymnastics to this year. It was really cool.”
Everett started the season by setting a career-high on vault with a 9.825 at the Little Boston Invitational on Jan. 6. She also tied for third on the floor exercise.
Last season, Everett didn’t earn any individual event titles and never scored higher than a 9.775 on vault. Her average floor exercise score is 9.769, up from 9.658 last year.
What caused Everett’s jump from her freshman to sophomore season?
“Definitely my confidence levels are a lot higher since I’m doing similar routines from last year to this year,” Everett said. “My overall form [has improved] too. I’ve been working on perfecting my skills.”
Coach Umme Salim-Beasley allows her gymnasts to go home during summers. Everett, however, stayed on campus in Summer 2017, took classes and worked out in the afternoons. She trained with a few of her teammates, assistant coach Michael Rosso and Salim-Beasley.
“I think it helped a lot,” Everett said. “It was a very relaxed tone, coming in here in the summer. We always had a lot of fun. … We were always just going out and doing our skills without any pressure.”
A shoulder injury Everett sustained in October forced her to practice only floor and vault. Everett was sidelined from all competition for “three to four weeks” following the injury, Salim-Beasley said, and she has stopped competing in any bar or balance beam events.
Salim-Beasley said the change has helped Everett focus more closely on the events in which she is capable of competing. Everett has started to practice on the balance beam and could add more events to her repertoire when she’s fully healthy, Salim-Beasley said.
“The consistency isn’t where it needs to be for her to get into the lineup,” Salim-Beasley said. “She’s training that event with the intention of being able to, in the future, get into a lineup in that event.”
Everett, who verbally committed to Temple (7-2) as a junior in high school despite interest from Towson University, has taken on more of a leadership role in her second season. She said she tries to help Temple’s eight freshmen as much as she can.
“I’m always there for advice, giving them little tips,” Everett said. “Telling them stuff like, ‘Don’t panic over these assignments. You’re going to make it through. Preseason isn’t as bad as you think.’ I just try to be moral support.”
Tori Edwards, a freshman all-around from Haymarket, Virginia, said Everett has helped her adjust to life as a Division I athlete.
“She’s the person I go to if I’m ever freaking out,” Edwards said. “When your brain is all over the place, she helps you get back into reasoning.”
Despite setting career-best marks early this season, Everett believes that she can top her scores again.
“I definitely think my scores still have room for improvement on the two events that I compete,” Everett said.