By Joe Reardon, Boston Herald
ROXBURY, Mass. -- Jayci Andrews was perfectly content that she didn't have to travel to some far away state for this year's NCAA Div. 3 Indoor Track & Field Championships. Emily Bryson also liked the fact that she needn't pack her spikes and fly to parts unknown to run.
Running closed to home suited both athletes as they picked up national titles yesterday before a raucous crowd at the Reggie Lewis Center.
Andrews, a senior at Bridgewater State University, took full advantage of the home track advantage as her surge at the midway point of the hurdles put her into the lead and she leaned at the tape to capture her first national title in 8.68 seconds (video). Runner-up Favor Ezewuzie of Wheaton (Ill.) and third-place finisher Caira Watson-Haynes of Washington University were both clocked in 8.68 in the photo finish to decide the top three.
"Honestly, my goal was to do the best I could. The prelims felt good and that was a good thing heading into the finals. I wanted to focus on keeping my body square and trail leg high."
Andrews, a 2015 graduate of Plymouth South, made contact with Ezewuzie at the fourth hurdle, but wasn't thrown off stride by the bump. "The start felt good, but in the middle we locked arms a little bit and I feel like that slowed us down a little bit. I felt like I had won, but she was right near me. My middle speed and finish are my strongest and my start is weakest. But I definitely got better at it."
Andrews will be looking to improve on her national second-place finish in the 100 hurdles from last year at the 2018 NCAA Div. 3 Outdoor Track & Field Championships and her personal best time of 14.12.
Bryson came into the meet as the defending 3000 champion from a year ago, but opted for going for gold in the distance medley on Friday night and then the mile. Three of the four girls on the Brandeis team – Bryson, her sister Julia (Bryson) and Devin Hiltunen – all graduated from North Quincy High. Doyin Ogundiran joined the former Red Raiders as they pulled away to an 11:40.64 victory.
Still, with three races in less than 24 hours, Bryson was as relieved as she was exhilarated when she crossed the finish line of the mile in a new meet record of 4:45.80.
"I had the top seed, but I knew the girl from Williams was really talented and would be right there," said Bryson. "There was definitely a lot of pressure (as the top seed) and being at home I knew I wanted to get it done here. I was really, really nervous heading into it. When I crossed the line I felt a lot of relief that I had done it."
Bryson was out quick and stayed two strides behind runner-up Anna Passannante of Williams (4:46.81). She was jostled on the fourth lap and dropped back to fourth briefly before surging into second. Bryson drew even with Passannante on the straightaway of the seventh lap and powered home in 32.8 for the final 200. Bryson showed off her speed with a quick 66.9 for the final 400.
"I was really, really tired," said Bryson, who picked up her ninth All-American medal. "I knew I could do it, it was just executing the race and the mile has such a tactical aspect to it. Nothing's ever certain. I could see as I got closer to her that she was slowing and this is my senior year and I really wanted it."