JESHUA ANDERSON speaks slowly. Purposely. Almost painfully. When he makes his way about the Washington State campus, he walks in the same manner. Until, that is, he reaches Mooberry Track. Then Anderson transforms himself into one of the most dynamic athletes in Pacific Northwest history.
And yet, many Northwest sports fans are saying to themselves, “Jeshua WHO?”
Such is the fate of virtually all track and field athletes in the United States, particularly those who are not Olympic gold medalists.
Anderson is not an Olympic gold medalist. Yet.
Check back next summer. That’s when the 2012 Olympics will be held in London, and Anderson is a good bet to be there, decked out proudly in red, white and blue.
That’s the plan, anyway. First, Anderson says he’s taking aim at the all-time college and NCAA meet records in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles when he guns for his third NCAA championship – he took second last year – next Friday in Des Moines, Iowa.
“God willing, I’ll do something that is very memorable and record-breaking,” Anderson said.
Anderson has done just that with frightening regularity during his four years at Washington State. He’s shattered his own school record repeatedly, most recently at the Pacific-10 Conference Championships. His fourth straight title came in a meet-record time of 48.13 seconds that ranked fifth in the world this year behind four times of South African professional L.J. Vanzyl.
Anderson’s resume is impeccable. He owns national and world junior titles; won an international meet for athletes 22 and under last year; and he set the national high school record of 35.28 seconds in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles as a senior at Taft High in Woodland Hills, Calif., a district of Los Angeles.
As good as Anderson is, he needs monumental improvement to break the collegiate (47.10) and NCAA meet records (47.56). He’ll get two cracks at the records, starting with next Wednesday’s prelims.
Anderson was a fleet wide receiver – and a good one -- at WSU before quitting football early in his junior year to concentrate on track. He still talks about possibly combining professional careers in track and football after the 2012 Olympics.
“I love playing football,” said Anderson, who played at about 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. “That was my first sport. I always approached track with that football mentality and competitiveness. Football did a lot for me.”
Anderson’s unassuming manner serves him well in a sport that usually draws miniscule crowds at Washington State and most other colleges. He is excited about turning pro this summer in Europe, where the interest, endorsements and pay in track and field is far greater than in the United States.
Still, Anderson says he enjoys Pullman so much, he plans to stay there to train for the Olympics with highly respected WSU hurdles coach Mark MacDonald. Anderson even talks about running a business in Pullman some day.
“Coug fans are the best fans,” he says. “I appreciate the support.”
Anderson considered turning pro last summer, but he now says it was “a blessing in disguise” to return for his senior year. A nagging hamstring problem that bothered him for two years has cleared up, and he’s excited about running this weekend at Drake (University) Stadium, where he won his first NCAA championship in 2008.
“I feel good about my chances of winning another title,” Anderson said. “That’s definitely on my mind. It’s on my checklist, along with breaking a few records.”