Aaja Jalbert : How I Spent My Summer Vacation
I believe most of us can think back to our youth, perhaps as a teenager and remember that one special summer that forever lives in our memories. For American phenom Aaja Jalbert, she only has to think back a few weeks, as she is currently living that special summer.
When the Covid pandemic hit in 2020 and locked everything down, Aaja lost out on a trip to represent America in the WDF America’s Cup in Jamaica. Many sacrifices were made during this time, but when things started returning to normal in the dart world, Aaja returned on fire. Some may have regressed during this time but not Aaja, she worked hard on her form and continued to develop her game as she reaches for new heights.
The Cherry Bomb International in Coral Springs, FL was the first big tournament to be played in America since the lockdown. In her return she won the Winmau 501 Youth National Championship for the second straight year. She played in some adult events there and also won the WDF 501 Girls title.
A few weeks later she returned to Charlotte, NC to compete. Charlotte is important to her timeline as it was there in 2018 that she first exploded onto the national dart scene. As a 13 year old, Aaja won her first ADO 501 Youth National Championship beating older players. There was a very emotional video of her winning and breaking down in tears with her father Aaron, who has mentored her since she first began throwing back in 2016. It was a touching moment that made her a very popular Champion. She also entered some adult events at the Charlotte Open and made a nice run to the Semi-Finals of Ladies Cricket beating some impressive players along the way.
My wife Sandy Hudson, a very accomplished Cricket player, topped Aaja that day and I remember watching the match, it was the first time I saw her play. Sandy is a popular player but most of the large crowd that gathered to watch was pulling for the kid and we were all amazed by this young lady’s talents. Turns out Cricket is Aaja’s favorite game because of the strategy needed, Sandy would agree.
Fast forward to this year’s busy weekend in Charlotte where she started on Thursday with the Winmau Cricket National Championship managed by the USSDA. The American Disability Darts Championship was held on Thursday as well and on Friday the ADO Masters National playoffs, the ADO 501 Youth Nationals and the start of the Charlotte Open, which were great hosts to all of us.
Aaja played in her first adult Nationals, the Winmau Cricket Nationals and played well. After the seeding bracket she earned the 4th seed in a field on 20 players. She reached the Quarter Finals and earned money for her efforts. The next day she would win the ADO 501 Youth Nationals in impressive fashion, her third ADO Youth Title and 5th overall. She is the first American player to win five Youth National Championships. Even though she lost a couple of chances during the Covid lockdown, she still is still has another year remaining to compete so this number could grow. She also won the Girls WDF Youth event and currently ranks as the #1 Girls player in by the WDF.
With the ADO title under her belt she has qualified for the WDF World Masters this year in the Netherlands, which will be her third trip the Masters after going to England in 2018 and 2019. Aaja loves international competition and has learned that some of the foreign players are more consistent with higher scoring averages. This understanding brings a deeper commitment from Aaja and a higher standard she sets for herself.
Aaja is entering her senior year at Gorham High School in Maine and loves spending time with her family, her three younger brothers and her friends. Aaja’s friends don’t quite understand how much is involved in being a player of her caliber or how big the sport is in certain areas. She’s just one of the girls, a typical teenager. She enjoys traveling, going to tournaments and the interaction she has developed with players around the country and the world. Her two favorite tournaments are large events close to her home, the Seacoast Open and the Witch City Open.
She is influenced by several national and international female players but points out Fallon Sherrock as a model to strive for. Aaja loves her calm, composure, her grace under pressure and she emulates it very well. She is confident playing youth or adult players and hopes to make a smooth transition into the womens' game after her youth career is over. She enjoys practicing alone, listening to music but feels she gets the most out of it when she practices against better players. She is fortunate to have 2 talented players in her household which no doubt has helped in her development.
Aaja already had some impressive sponsors such as L- Style Global and Extreme Darts. Now she has signed with SuperDarts who will make her a barrel she designed. Such an amazing summer, such an impressive player with a strong support system, to say the sky is the limit for Aaja seems like an understatement.
Chuck Hudson - USSDA Darts