Robby Andrews is one of those athletes that we expect much from in the next few years. Robby has the talent and drive to be a global player. With the talent on the American scene right now, it is pretty tough to make a World or Olympic team. Robby Andrews has done that. Now comes the next big move. In this feature, Sabrina Yohannes writes on what Robbie Andrews has learnt, and where he plans to go!
Putting Rio Disappointment Behind Him, Robby Andrews Looks Ahead
By Sabrina Yohannes
Robby Andrews bounced back from an unsatisfying NYRR Millrose Games outcome to win the Ocean Breeze Grand Prix mile in Staten Island, NY last week, employing his trademark kick on the last lap.
Andrews will similarly be looking to triumph at the U.S. indoor nationals next week, with the setback of his last championship race, the global competition in Rio, behind him. He was on track to run his first Olympic 1500m final in Brazil when he was disqualified in the semi-final; and he shared his thoughts about the experience and about gradually coming to terms with the disappointment.
Andrews had finished second behind world indoor champion Matthew Centrowitz in the U.S. Olympic Trials final in Eugene, Oregon before heading to Brazil. “When I saw him with 100m to go in the Olympic Trials, something changed inside of me, a calm just came over me,” Andrews’ father Bob told RunBlogRun after the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile in September. “And I knew he was a different runner [in 2016]. He made the adjustments from what he didn’t have in the finals of the world championships.”
Robby Andrews trains with his former University of Virginia coach Jason Vigilante (now coaching at Princeton University), and Bob Andrews, a runner himself, helps out. The elder Andrews elaborated on the adjustments made in the wake of his son’s 11th place finish at the 2015 Worlds final in Beijing. “We did a lot more endurance work,” he said. “To do rounds. He didn’t have enough the previous year.”
Robby Andrews lined up on August 16 for the Rio 2016 heats. “The morning of the first round, he sent me a text at 6:30 in the morning, saying, “Dad, I’m at the Olympics,” said his father, who accompanied him there and was himself thrilled. “For me to be there with my son, it was incredible, to be part of his journey.”
“It was honestly calming,” Robby Andrews told RunBlogRun about toeing the start line on the blue track of the Rio Olympic Stadium for the first time. “You train really hard for something and you feel purposeful, like, ‘This is what I was there to do.’ So I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be on the starting line. It was like a cool feeling.”
Andrews finished fast in the heats and passed through to the semi-final. There, he appeared to have qualified for the final before being disqualified for a lane violation. He had briefly stepped off the track while moving up in position through a narrow space on the inside of lane one on the homestretch.
“You know, I made a judgment call in a tight spot and unfortunately, I was disqualified,” he said. The infraction was called by an official. “It was a camera judge,” Andrews said. “I thought I ran well, literally until 100m to go. So it’s tough.”
A few months later, Andrews spoke about Rio in depth. He said he’s learned a few things from the experience.
“I can compete with the best in the world,” he told RunBlogRun before the Armory Track Invitational in New York in February. “Honestly, you know, I was in a really good spot in that if I had changed a few things I could have made the final. Very simple things. It had nothing to do with fitness.” Race strategy was one thing he said he’d discussed with his coach afterwards.
Asked if moving closer to the front sooner was one change that might have helped in Rio, Andrews said, “Either sooner or: I’d run the whole race on the outside; if I’d just stayed there for another 100m, it would have been fine. But I got anxious and moved on the inside. … I’ve been running a long time; there’s more pictures of me finishing on the outside of lane three than there are of me finishing in lane one.”
Andrews also spoke about the immediate aftermath of Rio in which his races had turned out to be sub-par.
“It was really difficult for me to continue running after Rio,” he said. “At the time, I thought it was better for me to keep racing. I don’t know if it was or not, because I didn’t feel especially good in any races, but at the same time, would it have been better to just sit at home and dwell on everything? So I don’t know.”
“It was something you just kind of had to get through, and ultimately, I think it did help me get through the year, because you can beat yourself up in your mind all you want and it doesn’t make anything better; and getting out there and doing what I love, that’s what I want to do,” he continued. “I train to race. It was good to be able to persevere through all that for myself.”
In the new year, Andrews, who lives in Princeton, NJ, won the indoor Terrier Invitational 1000m in Boston in 2:21.23 in January.
At the Armory Track Invitational he anchored a Princeton-based 4x800m relay team that finished second on February 4. Afterwards, Andrews accommodated photo-seeking college runners Andree Di-Reumante and Tyler Davidson from Bloomfield, NJ, who said Andrews was an inspiration to them.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” said Davidson, who described being awed by Andrews’ patented kick, which he termed “amazing” and “beautiful.”
In the Millrose NYRR Wanamaker Mile on February 11, Andrews stayed in second or third position until fading in the final laps to place 8th in 3:57.04. “Didn’t quite have it the last 400,” he said after the race.
“I think we’re just getting momentum,” he said, assessing his recent races in general. He also said that his racing volume was similar to what he’d done in the past.
“I didn’t finish how I wanted to,” he said. “But overall, I don’t need to change too much. I’ll run a mile next week in Staten Island, and then I’ll run nationals.”
The S.I. mile has been duly conquered; the Albuquerque kilometer remains.
Andrews has his sights set on defending his title from the 2015 U.S. indoor nationals, the last year without a world indoor championships when the 1000m distance was contested at the USATF championships.
For the main outdoor season this year, the 2010 world junior bronze medalist has his goal defined. “Win a medal in London! That’s it,” he said of the world championships in August.
As the 2015 World Relays gold medalist Andrews said in concluding his thoughts on Rio, “You know, for whatever reason, that’s how it was meant to be; but it keeps me hungry, that’s for sure!”