By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- She boarded planes to Iowa twice and Alabama and Wisconsin once each to compete in previous national championship track meets.
Bridgewater State University senior Jayci Andrews will only have to hop in a car and make a short drive to Boston this week to take part in the NCAA Division 3 Track & Field Championships for the fifth time in her career.
The Plymouth resident has qualified for the indoor meet in the 60-meter hurdles as the No. 2 seed with a school-record time of 8.74 seconds, trailing only Favor Ezewuzie (8.72) of Wheaton College in Illinois.
Andrews will be in the preliminary race on Friday at 2 p.m. at the Reggie Lewis Center, bidding to qualify for the final at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday.
After earning All-America status with a second-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles last spring, Andrews is looking forward to bidding for another strong showing, this time close to home with family members and friends looking on.
“It’s definitely a comfortable environment,” said Andrews, a Plymouth South High graduate. “I’ve run there mostly every meet in high school, and in college, I’m there two or three times during the winter season.
“This is a great opportunity and I’m glad it’s close to home so I get to have all that support and make it so it’s like a regular meet.”
Andrews went to the NCAAs during both the winter and spring seasons as a freshman in 2016, finishing 11th and 10th, respectively, in the 400-meter race.
An injury suffered during the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships in the winter of 2017 prevented Andrews from going to the NCAAs as a sophomore, but she qualified last year during the indoor season (17th in the 60-meter hurdles) and the outdoor season (second in Wisconsin).
Andrews’ qualifying time this winter came when she broke her own school record during the New England Championships last month.
“I think this is the event I’ve mostly improved on since my freshman year,” said Andrews. “I didn’t even qualify for nationals in this and then I got injured my sophomore year.
“I think what I mostly improved on was my hurdle technique, doing the drills and all the different workouts.”
Andrews, who credits coach Connor Foley along with her parents, Tracy and Jamie, for the progress she’s made throughout her career, was playing club soccer in middle school when she decided to give track & field a shot.
“It was like eighth grade when I really discovered my speed,” she said. “My parents wanted me to try out track and I’ve been doing it ever since. I was playing basketball and it was a tough decision, but this is my better sport, so I’m glad I stuck with it.”
Andrews has set eight individual records at Bridgewater State and has been part of three relay teams that own school marks.
She overcame a broken navicular bone in her left foot during the 2017 MASCAC Championships, rebounding to have a strong junior year, and is finishing her career on a strong note as a senior.
After being involved in four previous NCAA meets, Andrews knows what to expect, but there she’s aware of the top flight competition that will have to be defeated to become an All-America once again.
“I definitely feel more comfortable that it’s here in Boston, but I’m still nervous,” she said. “Those nerves are different when it comes to this time of year. I don’t think they’ll go away.
“If I could have it my way, (finishing among the leaders) is exactly how I’d do it. We all have an equal chance and you never know what can happen at these meets. Your nerves just get the best of you, so you never know how the rest of the competition is going to affect you.
“Being older and having more experience makes it less nerve-wracking and having it in Boston helps.”