Josette Andrews’ Dream Is Clicking

Andrews raced the LA GP 1500 in 4:00.77, her fastest since ’21. (KEVIN MORRIS)

MAJOR LIFE CHANGES can be hard on athletic careers, but Josette Andrews has only gotten better in the months since she tied the knot with Olympian Robby Andrews and moved halfway across the country to Colorado to join the On Athletic Club and the coaching of Dathan Ritzenhein.

The wedding took place December 09. “We went on a honeymoon to Costa Rica two days later. Then we moved to Colorado on Christmas Eve, so it was a crazy 3 weeks,” Andrews says with a laugh.

“I think it can be pretty hard to make a transition. Sometimes it clicks right away and sometimes it takes a little bit of time. I think my foundation has been so strong the last few years being a professional with Reebok and coach [Chris] Fox that so far, luckily, I’ve been able to click right in and I’ve adjusted to altitude really well. I had done a couple of camps at altitude before in Flagstaff and had a really good response when I went there for about 5 weeks. But to live full-time at altitude is a big change and my body’s responding really well.

“Me and Alicia [Monson] have been great training partners and so it was really exciting to be able to jump right in and be full on board with Dathan and the OAC and just have things click and see performances that we thought we were capable of doing. And also progressing from where I was back in ’21 and ’22.”

Her ’23 season kicked off with a lone indoor race, a 4:20.88 for 2nd in the Millrose mile. Outdoors she burned a PR 5000 in 14:43.36 at the On Track Fest to become No. 7 all-time among Americans. Then she showed off her speed with a 4:00.77 for 3rd in the 1500 at the LA Grand Prix. A brief European tour saw her run 4:01.39 for 7th in Florence and 4:21.98 for 10th in the Bislett mile. The consistency of the performances speaks well of her base fitness.

“I think it’s just been a progression in consistency,” Andrews says. “I had a great 2021 season at the end of the year and into ‘22’s indoor season. And then, unfortunately, I had a hamstring strain that took a long time to recover from in the spring season. And I think I was forcing things a little bit in the late summer. I didn’t quite see the outdoor season that I was hoping for.”

Her down ’22 campaign had followed a steady progression for Andrews since she graduated from Georgetown as a Big East champion and NCAA 4th-placer in the 5000, with PRs of 4:13.77 and 15:46.75. Not exactly the numbers that scream out “major pro prospect!” but Andrews always knew there was more there.

“I always had the dream of being able to run professionally. I had some injuries in the first few years of college, so I never felt like I had the chance to prove myself and chase after my goals. I made a transfer move [from North Carolina to Georgetown] and that was a big transition and things just were not clicking. I didn’t have consistency. There was always a roadblock and a setback. And even though there were those setbacks, I still had the belief that I could do it.

“My fifth year, my coaches really understood that and my teammates really saw my vision. I worked so hard that year to just get myself back.” With no remaining eligibility in cross country ’18, she focused on building a strong base that fall: “It was only a couple of months to build that foundation coming back from injury, but it was enough to be able to put up those marks and get to nationals on the track for the first time.”

After NCAAs, she says, “I kept running that entire summer to chase a contract because USAs weren’t until July.” She ran a PR 4:10.82 in New Jersey and later a PR 15:29.34 at Azusa before finishing 12th in the USATF 5000. She signed on with agent Ray Flynn and before long had a Reebok contract. “I just really needed a chance to do it because there was so much left.”

The next year, with the pandemic shutting much of the sport down, she mostly focused on training with Fox, a world-class runner who became Syracuse coach and now heads Reebok’s Boston-based training group.

In ’21, Andrews, always sure of her own potential, convinced many others. In a season sprinkled liberally with PRs, she improved to 14:51.32. Her only disappointment came at the Olympic Trials, where she finished 8th in the 5000. She says, “Going into it, I had never really thought about making the team that year. I thought, ‘OK, this is my first Olympic Trials, I’m going to get this experience and then I’m going to keep getting better and better as the years go on.’ It was crazy when I got to the Trials, I was like, ‘Wait, I can make this team. People think I can make this team.’

“Things were happening so fast with me physically on the track that I think I hadn’t really caught up by the time I got to the Trials. The race was definitely disappointing, not to make the team, but I rebounded pretty quickly from it because I felt like I was still young. I was able to go back and train and not grieve too much.”

She and Fox shifted the emphasis to the 1500, and big results came immediately. She ran a PR 3:59.72 before putting together a consistent set of results in the Diamond League, topped by her 3rd in the DL Final in Zürich. She ended the season as the top-ranked American and No. 6 in the world.

In ’22 she had a solid indoor campaign, finishing 2nd at USATF Indoor and 5th in the World Indoors. Then the hamstring bailed on her and she struggled through the outdoor campaign. By fall, she found herself considering other options, and the more she observed Ritzenhein’s crew in action, the more she was impressed: “What they were building got me really excited just watching it from afar. And then having conversations with Dathan about the team and the vision and his vision for me just made it become an easier decision. I took a visit out in October and it felt just right.

“I’m someone who likes to follow my gut and my gut was saying, ‘This is what you want to do and this is where you want to be.’”

Now that she is seeing the payoff, one question keeps popping up: which is her best event, 1500 or 5000? “You know, I really don’t know and Dathan honestly doesn’t know either right now. I feel like I train for the 5000 and move down to the 1500 and that 5K strength helps me so much. But I want to be successful at both. You see the top runners in the world are successful at multiple events and can maneuver themselves in different races.

“I want to excel at both of them. I don’t know which is the right one to focus on. I do feel like there’s a lot more to give in the 5000, especially after that breakout race. I’d love to run a 5K Diamond League to really test the waters in that event.

“But I also love how in the Diamond League circuit you can race the 1500 more and that’s really fun, because I can come to Europe and maybe do three races instead of one. The 1500 is such a fun event.”

For the coming USATF Championships, she says she will be entered in both. “We’ll see where I am and make a decision from there… We’re still not sure, but getting better and stronger will only help me for both events.”