By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
ROXBURY, Mass. -- What a difference a year made for Bridgewater State University hurdler Jayci Andrews of Plymouth.
When she competed in the 60-meter hurdles at the 2018 NCAA Division 3 Indoor Track & Field Championship last March in Alabama, Andrews made contact with the first hurdle and was unable to recover, finishing in last place in a field of 17 in the preliminary race (9.04 seconds).
One year later, Andrews is a national champion in the same event after placing first with a school-record time of 8.68 seconds on Saturday afternoon (video).
Andrews became Bridgewater State’s first female NCAA national champion in track & field with the win at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.
The senior, a Plymouth South High graduate, edged out top-seeded Favor Ezewuzie of Wheaton College in Illinois and Caira Watson-Haynes of Washington University, who both finished in 8.69 seconds.
Chris Perry is the only BSU male NCAA national champion after winning the triple jump event at the 2015 outdoor championship meet.
“It’s very exciting,” said Andrews, who made her fifth appearance at an NCAA Championship meet. “I’m very proud of myself for doing it here in Boston. It was comfortable winning the national championship at home, especially with all my friends and family coming out to support me. That felt nice.
“I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else.”
Andrews was behind at the first hurdle, then turned it on to win her national championship. She became an All-American for the second time in her career, the first honor coming last spring when Andrews finished second in the 100-meter hurdles.
The memory of what happened a year ago in the 60-meter hurdles in Alabama was on the mind of the second-seeded Andrews this year.
“I definitely wanted to redeem myself from last year,” she said. “I was the fifth seed and came in last. It was tragic.
“Honestly, being here calmed down my nerves a lot. Just warming up in the gym I usually warm up in and competing at a place where I’ve competed multiple times was very comfortable.”
The national championship caps a sensational winter season for Andrews, who will finish her career with the outdoor season as she bids for a spot in the NCAAs in May.
After missing the nationals during the winter and spring seasons as a sophomore due to an injury, Andrews has now been to three straight NCAA meets with a national title and two All-America performances.
“We had a setback in the national championships where she ended up finishing last, but she bounced back real well outdoors last year,” said BSU coach Connor Foley. “We knew she had the potential to be in contention. She’s been top five in the country the whole season. She showed up and got it done today.
“That’s something that we’ve always been able to rely on. She’s been racing well late in the season and she took care of business today. It’s incredible. We’ve talked about it that we were on a mission to bounce back to prove that wasn’t a true indicator of who she is as an athlete.
“The determination she’s had to overcome so many different things, like that bad race and dealing with injuries is great. She has the ability to focus and not be held back. It’s something I really admire in her. It’s what makes her a special athlete.”