On an overcast, frigid December afternoon, two-time NCAA 400-meter hurdles champion Jeshua Anderson is running with his track teammates in the Indoor Practice Facility.
Anderson’s training regime today includes a 300-meter sprint, then four minutes rest during which he talks with hurdles coach Mark Macdonald and head coach Rick Sloan, followed by another 300-meter run. After just a minute’s rest, Anderson runs a 200-meter sprint, rests 10 minutes while he talks with the coaches again, then wraps it up with a 300-meter run.
At the end of each run, Anderson has led the way.
“If you’re looking to get pushed in a workout session, he is always there, and there is nobody on our team that can beat him,” Sloan says.
Very few times has anyone beaten Anderson during his collegiate career.
“He’s probably one of the greatest athletes and competitors that we’ve ever had at Washington State University,” says Sloan, who has coached Olympic gold medalist Dan O’Brien and world champion Bernard Lagat ’01. “He is a remarkable talent.”
Anderson is just the third man to win the NCAA 400-meter hurdles title as a freshman and sophomore. He has won two NCAA Championships and is a three-time Pac-10 champion in the event.
“You have a mindset that you are going to win,” the soft-spoken Anderson explains. “You know what’s going to happen because you’ve done it so much in practice. When you get to the race it is second nature …
“The one big thing [about the 400-meter hurdles] is there are 10 hurdles in the race and anyone can get off rhythm,” Anderson adds. “Everybody has a little advantage. If you get off rhythm it’s kind of hard to get back into your stride pattern again.”
One of the few times Anderson fell off rhythm occurred at the 2010 NCAA Championships.
Vying for his third straight NCAA 400-meter hurdles title at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, Anderson held the lead approaching the ninth hurdle when he hesitated for a split second.
South Carolina’s Johnny Dutch,whom Anderson had bested at the NCAA Champion- ships a year before, overtook Anderson on the straightaway to deny Anderson his third title.
That summer, Dutch decided to leave school to pursue a professional career. Anderson considered joining his friend and rival, but decided to stay at WSU.
“I finished the NCAAs and said, ‘Maybe I want to make this move to take my talents to the next level,’” says Anderson. “I don’t want to sell myself short, and I didn’t want to close any opportunities or doors that I like to be open.”
Ironically, the NCAA defeat provided an opening for Anderson that he may not have had otherwise for his senior season.
“It’s a blessing that it happened because, had it not happened, if I had won, I probably would have definitely gone pro,” he says. “For me to finish out my collegiate career here is a blessing. I don’t want to leave and not get that degree that I’ve been working toward.”
On this December day, six months removed from his disappointment at the NCAAs, Anderson is looking ahead six months and the 2011 NCAA Championships.
“This year, it is something that fuels me to work even harder,” Anderson says.
Though a four-peat is not possible anymore, Anderson still has a goal in his sights—to break the collegiate 400-meter hurdles record of 47.10 by Samuel Matete of Auburn in 1991.
“It gives me something to work for,” says Anderson, whose personal best is 48.47, set at the 2009 NCAA Championships.
“He’s a workaholic,” says Macdonald. “He will do anything. If I called now to say we have practice at five o’clock at Lewiston to run hills, he would be the first one there.”
The coaches watch that work ethic so he doesn’t overextend.
“The No. 1 thing through every interval and practice session is seeing how he’s feeling so he comes out of it healthy,” explains Macdonald. “He can’t win anything if he’s hurt.”
“I adopted this philosophy with Dan O’Brien,” Sloan says. “I came to the conclusion that he’s so great, make sure he is healthy, get him to the track meet with his shoes, and the rest is going to take care of itself.
“With Jess, we feel the same way,” Sloan adds. “He is very fit, but he’s got to be healthy. No matter how good you are, if you’re hurt, you become common.”
Common is not something Anderson is known to be on the track. Though he is soft-spoken, Anderson speaks loudly when he is in his venue of competition, and his reaction after winning races—shouting in celebration of victory—has been captured in photographs, one of which hangs in the track and field office.
“Usually only in the big races does he react that way,” says Macdonald. “He just loves to win, and when he wins something big, he has that type of reaction.”
Anderson describes his exuberance as a culmination of the work he puts in, such as what he is doing on this winter day: “That fire is giving praise and glory to God.”
Anderson’s accomplishments include achieving one of the goals he set his freshman year.
“My biggest thing was to put Washington State on the map. As long as I was showing and wearing the colors proudly, and then doing the best I can performance-wise, that’s all I wanted to do.
On the web
WSU’s Anderson prepares to cap marvelous career (The Spokesman-Review, John Blanchette, June 5, 2011)