Just as she did while competing for Lake Region High, Kate Hall heads into her first NCAA championship meet chasing a national title.

Hall, who grew up in Casco, set a national high school record in the long jump last June. Now a freshman at Iowa State, she heads into the NCAA indoor track and field championships seeded fourth in the event with a mark of 21 feet, 51/2 inches. It’s her best jump indoors and ranks her fifth among American women.

But Hall has her sights set on 22 feet and a higher place on the podium.

“If I jump 22 feet, I will probably (win),” she said. “If I get All-American (a top-eight finish), that will be unbelievable. But I’m going for the win, for sure.”

Hall competes Friday night at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

She also qualified for the NCAAs in the 60 meters with a time of 7.30 seconds, but Hall won’t compete in the sprint. Her coach advised her to forgo the 60 to focus on the long jump, which is scheduled right after.

Alabama junior Quanesh Burks, the defending NCAA long jump champion outdoors, is seeded first in the event with a jump of 22-13/4.

Last year Hall broke a 39-year-old high school record by leaping 22-5 on her final jump at the New Balance outdoor nationals. Her performance had Jackie Joyner-Kersee tweeting congratulations and passed the qualifying standard of 21-1 needed to compete at the U.S. Olympic trials.

So again, Hall hopes to raise the bar on her indoor performances and jump past 22 feet.

“It’s not like she can’t compete with anyone out there. I know she has a great competitive spirit and she tends to bring her best when the most is on the line. It is one of her strongest attributes,” said Hall’s jumps coach, Fletcher Brooks.

“But this is a whole other level. She’s not going against the best in high school. She’s going against the best women in the world.”

Kate Hall was around 19 to 20 feet in the long jump as a senior at Lake Region High a year ago. Now, under an Iowa State coach with an eye-opening resume, she’s around 21 feet. Photo courtesy of Iowa State Athletics

Kate Hall was around 19 to 20 feet in the long jump as a senior at Lake Region High a year ago. Now, under an Iowa State coach with an eye-opening resume, she’s around 21 feet. Photo courtesy of Iowa State Athletics

After jumping in the 19-to 20-foot range last winter, Hall has been jumping consistently in the 21-foot range this winter. It’s a result of working with Brooks on her approach, takeoff and running mechanics. Brooks, who has coached 14 All-Americans and four national champions, said Hall needed to gain consistency on her takeoff to reach the next level.

“Part of what makes her such a good long jumper is she’s very fast. She has more speed than a lot of long jumpers. She’s got special speed. So we’re learning how to harness that,” Brooks said. “And we’re learning to replicate those movements over and over so she’s consistently on the board in the right position.”

Hall jumped 20-2.25 at a home meet Jan. 23, then soared to 21-5.5 at the Razorback Invitational on Jan. 29. Then, on Feb. 28, she was second at the Big 12 championships with a jump of 21-1.5.

Given it is Hall’s first NCAA championships, her coach just wants her gain the experience of competing at an elite level.

“She was a little off at the Big 12, but she still managed to go over 21 feet and score second. And the winner broke the Big 12 record so she was up against no slouch. If she does that this weekend, she will be an All-American,” Brooks said.

Hall remains focused on her longtime goal of making the U.S. Olympic team. The trials will take place July 1-10 in Eugene, Oregon.

“I’m definitely thinking about that all the time,” Hall said. “It’s pretty nice that it’s after (the NCAA outdoor) nationals. I can be set up pretty nicely. It’s exciting to know it’s coming up.”

Hall continues to work on strength and conditioning with Chris Pribish, co-owner of the United Medical Gym in South Portland.

“We’re really pleased with the way she’s adapted to college track and the demands of increased training and jumping,” Pribish said. “She has greatly improved her consistency in hitting the boards and improving the form that will be needed to get to the next level, and hopefully win a national title.”

Pribish added that Hall went to college with room for improvement – despite being a two-time national high school champion – because she didn’t always have a facility to train at in high school or the expertise of an elite-level jumps coach.

“She didn’t have that keen eye that knows the exact technique needed on the long jump,” said Pribish, who coached Hall in high school with her father, Eric Hall.

“We knew how to keep her healthy and explosive and stable. We kind of piece-mealed it all together and got a pretty good long jumper. But to get to that very elite level, hopefully the Olympic level, she needs perfect form and to be able to reproduce it. She’s on her way.”

Four other Iowa State athletes qualified for the nationals, including Hall’s roommate, Jhoanmy Luque, in the long jump.

And another Maine athlete, Isaiah Harris of Lewiston, stands a chance to earn All- America status as a freshman at Penn State. Harris is seeded fourth in the 800 (1:46.24) and is on the Nittany Lions’ third-seeded distance medley relay team.