NJ track star ready to ‘roll with the punches’ at 2016 Olympics
Fellow runners, residents, friends and family will be lining the streets of Manalapan Friday night during a parade celebrating former high school track star Robby Andrews, who has qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympic Team.
"To have the title Olympian, it's kind of taken a while to sink in," Andrews, 25, said. "I'm really proud to represent my country at the Olympics."
Relying on his come-from-behind trademark kick at the 1500-meter run Olympic trial finals earlier this month in Eugene, Oregon, Andrews crossed the finish in second place, with his jaw open and both hands on his head...knowing he was Rio-bound.
"It was just kind of like disbelief to some extent, like is this really happening," Andrews said.
Andrews missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, and pointed out that he struggled over the last four years. The top three advance and he placed fifth.
"I've waited a long time to be back in that exact moment, and to be in a position to qualify, it was almost too good to be true," Andrews said. "I could taste how close it was four years ago, and the disappointment from not making it, coming within a half-second of it four years ago, it really stung, and now to be in this position that I am now, it makes it all that much sweeter. It was a great race. I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around it."
Andrews said he prefers settling into the back of the pack, where he feels most comfortable.
"It's been good mojo for me to kind of stay out of trouble in the back, work my way up slowly and launch that killer kick," he said.
Races are unpredictable, but Andrews will compete in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with a similar game plan.
"I'm going to stick to the plan of working with what got me there. I'm going to take it one round at a time," he said, adding that there are two qualifying rounds to make it to the final. "The biggest goal is to get a medal, but to get a medal you have to be in the final, and to get in the final you have to make the semi-final, so it's a process and I'm going to try to break it down into little steps, little goals, one race at a time and just keep being Robby, keep being the same runner that go me in the position I am now."
Between now and the Olympics it's back to doing workouts and racing for the New Jersey athlete. Andrews said he plans to compete in the 1500-meter race on July 29 in Eugene, Oregon, and then it's onto the first round of the Olympic games on Aug. 16.
Robby's father, Bob Andrews and his coach, Jason Vigilante will be traveling to Brazil with him. His sister Kristin and mother Mary Andrews are still deciding if it's reasonable to go, according to Robby.
"I would love for them to be there, but obviously, safety and health is my number one priority for them," he said.
One thing is definite: Andrews will be wearing his good luck charm in Rio.
"I have to wear my chain with my cross that my grandparents got me for my confirmation back in 2003 or 2004. That's the only thing I have to wear in a race," he said. There's no special rituals or routines he must do before a race. "You kind of got to roll with the punches, so to say, you never know what you're going to get."
Andrews made a surprising revelation recently about his anatomy.
"I actually have webbed toes on my left foot and they're just stuck together, and people get really grossed out whenever they see it, but luckily I'm wearing shoes all the time, so it never really gets shown. But I was just born with webbed toes," Andrews said, joking that he "should have been a swimmer."
The athlete said he'll try not to put too much pressure on himself at the Olympics and most importantly "have fun."
"That's why I'm doing this sport to begin with, so I'm really looking forward to racing and competing against the best in the world," he said.
The parade honoring Andrews starts at the Manalapan Recreation Center at 7 p.m. and will finish at the High School Track. After the parade, there will be races for kids ages 2 to 6, as well as ice cream and #TeamRobby shirts while supplies last. Andrews also will be signing autographs.
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