By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- She has competed at the NCAA Division 3 Track & Field Championships five previous times since 2016.
Jayci Andrews has represented the Bridgewater State University women’s team at three indoor championship meets and two during the outdoor season.
When the Plymouth resident takes part in the sixth NCAA meet of her career this week in Geneva, Ohio, there will be a different feeling that she will be taking to the track.
Andrews is carrying with her the tag of national champion after winning the 60-meter hurdles title during the indoor season at the NCAA meet in Boston two months ago.
She arrives in Ohio on Tuesday as the No. 1 seed in the 100-meter hurdles with a school-record time of 13.86 seconds and is the No. 7 seed in the 400-meter hurdles (1:01.58).
“She’s kept the momentum rolling from the indoor season,” said BSU coach Connor Foley. “She’s had a great outdoor season, pretty much improving every single weekend and dropping some crazy times once we got to championship season.”
Andrews, a Plymouth South High graduate, is the only BSU female to win an NCAA national track & field championship and will now be attempting to add another.
She will take part in the 400 hurdles preliminary race on Thursday afternoon at 4:25 with the 100 hurdles preliminary race on Friday afternoon at 2:30. The championship races are Saturday afternoon.
Andrews, who also earned All-America honors last spring by finishing second in the 100 hurdles, has been riding the wave after winning her national title.
“That gave me a lot of confidence in myself and that’s something I struggled with throughout my seasons,” said Andrews, a social works major. “When it comes down to it, it’s all about confidence and that gave me a really good boost going into the spring season. I feel like it makes it easier, but there is pressure.
“I have a lot of people coming up to me, congratulating me, telling me they’re proud of me. It’s a nice feeling. I love the feeling. But sometimes I feel like now I have all this pressure on me to do it again in the spring season. That’s something I have to control myself.
“There’s definitely more pressure, especially since I broke 14 (seconds). The pressure is tough, but I’ve got to deal with that myself and show it on the track.”
Andrews edged Favor Ezewuzie of Wheaton College in Illinois (8.68 to 8.69) for the national championship in Boston on March 9 after finishing second to Sophie Stokes Cerkvenik of Colby (14.06 to 14.14) at the 100 hurdles final last spring.
“I did have a good feeling,” said Andrews of her race in March. “I had to train my mind to think positive things. Going in, I was very nervous, but as soon as that gun went off I just had to run my race and you can’t wait for anybody else.”
In the spring, Andrews won the 100 and 400 hurdles at both the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference championship meet and the New England Division 3 Championships.
She also placed fourth in the 100 hurdles at the New England Championships, which included all three divisions from the region.
“Honestly, it’s been a good season,” said Andrews. “I’ve been getting better and better. My consistency has been a big part of both of my seasons.”
Andrews ran the 400 at the NCAAs as a freshman during both the indoor and outdoor seasons, finishing 11th and 10th, respectively. She missed the national meets as a sophomore due to a fractured foot but returned to become an All-America last May, then winning the national title this winter.
It has been a successful run for Andrews, who still has one season of eligibility remaining because of the injury in 2017. Andrews is planning to compete for the Bears in the spring of 2020 to finish her career.
“Honestly, when I came to college I had no idea what to expect,” said Andrews. “I never even thought that I’d make it to the national level. But training and having to self-motivate myself to keep going really built on my character.”
As the No. 1 seed in the 100 hurdles and as a champion during the winter season, Andrews will have a target on her, but she has plenty of experience at the national level.
“At this point, this is going to be her sixth trip to nationals so she’s kind of a veteran at it, especially with the success she’s had the past couple of times,” said Foley. “I don’t think the moment’s too big for her. She’s confident in what she does when she gets there and treats it like another day at the track.”
Two months after being crowned a national champion, Jayci Andrews is ready to try for a repeat performance.
“(Winning again) would be huge,” she said. “I would be so proud of myself, not that I’m not already. But that would be ideal. I feel like I’m going to be more nervous. I think everybody is expecting me to do it again, which I would like to do again, but at these meets, you never know what’s going to happen.
“You can have your best race or your worst race. I’ve had the experience of having my worst race at one of these competitions and I don’t ever want to experience that again.”