ROBBY ANDREWS STORY
BY ELLIOTT DENMAN
NEW YORK - Robby Andrews shies away from revealing his personal-best mile.
"It's only 4:01.55, I did that my freshman year at Virginia," he revealed at this week's New York Track Writers Association meeting. But only under duress.
(Of course, his 3:34.78 1500 meters last year is the equivalent of 3:52-ish full-miling.)
Look for Andrews's 4:01.5 mile PR to be ripped to shreds. And very shortly.
Maybe even by midday Saturday.
He's the star entry in the men's mile that is the feature event of the annual New Balance Games at the Armory Track Center, the meet that sends the major-meet phase of the former military drillshed's winter season into cruise control.
"It's really good to be back on the track and racing again," Andrews told the Track Writers gathering at Coogan's Restaurant on Broadway.
"It (his flame-out in the 2012 Olympic Trials) has been eating at me for a while."
Andrews, the Manalapan (NJ) High School grad who went onto stardom at the University of Virginia, winning a pair of NCAA 800 titles, one indoors and one outdoors, often calls the Armory "my second home."
For good reason, in this story going back four years.
The Armory's 200-meter saucer is regularly called "the world's fastest" indoor track and there's evidence aplenty to back it up, a bunch of it authored by Robby.
Robby Andrews, 2009 Millrose Games,
The Armory was the scene of Andrews's dual runs to glory as a Manalapan High senior in 2009.
When he ran four Armory laps in 1:49.21, he became the first American high-schooler ever to break 1:50. for 800. When he went one lap further, setting the scholastic 1000-meter standard of 2:22.28, he did it with a modest opening two laps but a scintillating final 600 in 1:22.
Life has changed drastically for Andrews in the past year. First, he stepped away from the UVA program - and collegiate track altogether - and soon after signed an Adidas contract, lining up with agent Ray Flynn. And he left Virginia - the state/the commonwealth and the university - to return to his New Jersey roots.
Robby Andrews, 2012 OXY USA Performance Meeting, May 2012,
But all he'd envisioned happening last July 1 came unraveled.
Subpar and semi-dehydrated and dealing with an attack of nerves the day of the Trials 1500 final, he endured nothing but frustration, missing the London Olympic Games, a destination that once seemed his manifest destiny, weakening around the final turn and winding up fifth. He wobbled off the track, had to be held up as he struggled to reach the medical tent, and then had to deal with the mental anguish of a shattered dream.
With the Games over, he ran out of gas once again in a late-summer and eventually abbreviated European expedition.
"It is definitely painful to look back (at his rough 2012 windup)," said Andrews.
But, as the world turns, nothing is forever, and Andrews now bubbles new optimism.
"It (the Trials) was definitely frustrating to me, I was definitely supposed to make the team. But moving forward now, I learned a lot from that. Sure I regret not making the team, but I don't regret the whole experience."
Now, Robby is living at home in Manalapan--thriving on Mom's world-class home cooking; and getting plenty of advice from Dad, a brilliant middle distance runner in his own right, who is still doing quite nicely, thank you, as a Masters runner.
"Mooching off my parents," said Andrews, smiling widely.
Most importantly, it's Jason Vigilante continuing to serve as Robby's chief mentor.
Vigilante's departure from UVA - where he'd been head coach - was a principal reason for Andrews's departure from the Charlottesville campus, too.
It did not take them long to reunite.
When "Vig" was signed as Princeton University's new distance/cross country coach, on head coach Fred Samara's strong staff, Robby signed on with Princeton, too - as a volunteer coach.
Now, when he's not running with the Tigers - Andrews calls the process "active coaching" - he's taking on-line courses from his home-Monmouth County Brookdale Community College that will give him the credits he'll need to finish up the final semester of requirements for his UVA degree in kinesiology.
The situation seems to be working out beneficially to all concerned.
His workouts - now emphasizing more strength work and longer intervals to build the base he'll surely need to duke it out with the best on the world stage - are progressing well. And the Princeton runners are benefiting hugely from the presence of their new world-class coach.
So, there it is, the scenario being written for the continued emergence of one of the nation's brightest young middle distance talents. Andrews will mark his 22nd birthday on March 29th.
Look for many notable additions to his career dossier by then.