Mind over matter: Indians’ Droddy fears no injury in road to Austin

Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2017

PORT NECHES — Perhaps the biggest lesson Port Neches-Groves sophomore Jacie Droddy has absorbed in her young track and field career is mind over matter.

“This year I taught myself [that] I can’t get scared like I did last year, because that’s not going to get me anywhere,” the long jumper said.

She injured her hip flexor last year during the District 22-5A meet, when she finished second. She was third in the area round before missing out on the state meet with a seventh-place jump in 5A Region III.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

During this year’s districts in Nederland, Droddy’s injury reared its head again.

“At first, I was like, ‘Oh, gosh, an injury again?” she said. “I don’t want this to be like last year.”

It wasn’t.

She won the event with a 17-foot, 9.5-inch leap — and finished second in the 200 meters despite running a personal-best 24.74 seconds in the preliminary round.

That’s not all. Droddy won the Area 11-5A title in Mont Belvieu at 17-4 and just qualified for the 5A Region III meet in the 200 by finishing fourth.

The mental toughness lessons fourth-year PNG coach Brittany Fruge had Droddy working on away from the track paid off.

“She overcomes adversity like you wouldn’t believe,” Fruge said. “She trains through some pain, but those goals are more important to her.”

Like making the UIL state championships.

Droddy booked her trip to state with a personal-record 18-3 leap in the April 29 regional meet in Humble, earning a silver medal.

It’s amazing where the mind can take someone.

“When I found out I was going to state, I was emotional,” said Droddy, the first Fruge pupil to make state. “I was crying. I couldn’t really describe [the feeling].

“I’ve done track since I was 7 or 8. It’s always been a dream, and it finally came true.”


Mental preparation

Whatever workout Fruge plans doesn’t easily faze Droddy.

“It’s been such an honor to coach her,” said Fruge, a 2007 PNG graduate who played volleyball at Northwestern State. “She’s bought into the program from day one when she came in as a freshman ready to go. She doesn’t look at me crazy when I tell her what the workout is. She’s just like, ‘All right coach, what’s next?’”

It’s the confidence and self-awareness, Fruge said, that allows Droddy to be consistent in the long jump. By their estimation, Droddy won all but two or three of her events in the regular season this year, quite an accomplishment for a freshman who didn’t get started in the event until midway in her freshman season.

“I’ve always done long jump, but I didn’t know I was going to be good at it,” Droddy said. “Once I knew I was going to be good at it, I thought I should stick to this. I kept getting better at it.”

While the persistence has paid off, a change in her mental preparation for the long jump made a big difference for Droddy at regionals.

“At first, I would want to listen to what every other girl is jumping,” Droddy said. “I wanted to know what my competition is. At regionals, I put my headphones in so to not listen to anyone else. Just focus on myself.”

Just like that, she made her state qualifying jump. And set a personal best, at that.

“I think she takes coaching really well,” Fruge said. “She just takes the information, absorbs the information, takes it and applies it to every jump. She’s like a sponge; she absorbs what I tell her. I love it.”


Speed matters

Droddy’s 24.74 seconds in the 200 bested her own PNG record of 25.07, set last year. She came in sixth in the event at regionals in 25.41, but Fruge said Droddy got better at it each time she ran.

“She’s incredibly fast,” Fruge said. “Her fast-twitch muscles are amazing. She’s explosive. She’s dynamic. That’s what makes her with short distances and sprinting and long jumping.”

Her speed was apparent during Tuesday’s practice on the PNG track. She lifted off against the backdrop of the Port Neches clouds and landed into the grass-peeking sand with ease, fine-tuning her craft before she heads to Austin.

Mentally, Droddy — who starts jumping at noon Friday — is ready to go.

“We’re just now feeling like herself,” Fruge said. “She’s looking great, explosive and excited for her.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

email author More by I.C.