Looking back is something Washington State hurdler extraordinaire Jeshua Anderson rarely does, but that's exactly what he was doing on the eve of the NCAA 400 meter hurdle final.
In July 2008, at the World Junior Track & Field Championships in Poland, Anderson, who had just capped his freshman year at Wash-ington State with a NCAA 400 meter hurdle championship, won the World title with a then personal best time of 48.68. In second, over a half second behind, was fellow U.S. competitor Johnny Dutch of South Carolina.
Having established a blueprint of defeating Dutch, Anderson referred back to his World Championship win before the NCAAs.
"I knew I needed to get out hard," Anderson said. "I brought the DVD of the World Championships with me on the trip and watched it the night before the race."
While facing a rival and the rest of the field was sure to be imposing enough for Anderson, it was not the only obstacle he would have to contend with in the final. A year earlier, Dutch missed the 2008 NCAAs because of a strained hamstring. Now it was Anderson's hamstring that was a concern.
Two months earlier at the Mt. Sac Relays, Anderson strained his hamstring and the injury had been a nuisance since, forcing him and hurdles coach Mark Macdonald to make adjustments to the training regime.
"There were workouts at the end of the year where he couldn't continue with what was set up because of the hamstring," Head Coach Rick Sloan said, "so they had to alter the workouts to be able to get his work in."
"I did more open running instead of going over hurdles," Anderson said.
By the time of the NCAA Regional meet, where Anderson was attempting to defend his title from last year, the hamstring seemed to be progressing well. But then a setback occurred.
"It came around fine, but the week before NCAA Regionals, it grabbed him again and got really sore," Macdonald said.
"Regionals were a big issue," Macdonald added. "In some of the other events you can get through, but he has to go over the hurdles. I was even thinking, 'Do we run the whole race with his opposite leg?" Because where it was getting him the most was when he was hur-dling, and he has practiced before with that opposite leg. But then I thought, 'Let's just do it and run easy.' "
Anderson did run easy in the final and, leading from the start, cruised to victory. With a spot at the national meet secure, Anderson could enjoy two weeks to rest the hamstring before the national championships.
The break proved beneficial.
"It was probably at 90 percent," Anderson said of how his hamstring felt at the time of the NCAA meet. "My hamstring was still nagging, but not real bad. The week before NCAAs it really started to feel a lot better."
Anderson easily won his preliminary round race, and his semifinal time of 49.27 was the fastest in the field, earning him the optimal fifth lane in the final. Dutch, with the second fastest time of 49.48, was in lane six. Coincidentally, the pair would start from the same lane as-signments as the World Championships.
"My strategy was good," Anderson said. "Coach Mac had been working with me in letting my stride do most of the work on the back-stretch; eat up as much ground as easily as possible, and bring it home."
It didn't take long for Anderson to open a lead against the field, and, heading into the final two hurdles, the title defense was coming to fruition.
But Dutch was coming on.
"I think the reason he won NCAAs was his first eight hurdles were so good he put a little bit of a gap on Dutch," Macdonald said. "When he came off of eight, I knew he was going to win because nobody catches him from behind, but, in this case, it looked like from my angle that Dutch was starting to catch him a little bit."
Though Dutch was closing the gap, he could not erase it totally, and Anderson crossed the finish line in a school record time of 48.47 seconds, .15 seconds ahead of Dutch.
"I was just happy I didn't get caught from behind," said Anderson, whose back-to-back titles placed him in elite company.
He is just the third man to win the NCAA 400 hurdles as a freshman and sophomore. The previous two, Danny Harris (Iowa State, 1984-86) and Kerron Clement (Florida, 2004-05), went on to international success in the event. Harris captured the 1984 silver medal and Clem-ent won the 2007 World Championships and 2008 Olympic silver.
"It's rare when any NCAA Division I school has a national champion," Sloan said. "Winning it as a freshman was absolutely incredible, and to come back and do it again as a sophomore, it is just a testament not only to his ability but to Coach Macdonald's coaching and tute-lage."
Being one of only three men to hold the NCAA 400 meter hurdle crown as both a freshman and sophomore is not the only thing that makes Anderson unique in Macdonald's view.
"What sets him apart is that he is the complete package," said Macdonald. "I don't think very often you see someone whose talent level is so high but then his work ethic is better than anyone or as good as anyone."
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