An Olympic dream worth chasing for former WSU track star Jeshua Anderson

IN YOUR TWENTIES, you’re supposed to chase your dreams. And for Jeshua Anderson, the biggest quest of his life is coming in a little more than a month when the former Washington State All-American and NCAA track champion looks to clear another hurdle in his redemption tour by winning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

He’ll be in Eugene in early July for the U.S. trials, which will determine who represents the red, white and blue at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this summer.

“I run on July 7-8 and then July 9 is the day off. On July 10, I find out if I’ll be going to Rio or not. The top three make the team and will head to Brazil.”

The opportunity has been a long time coming.

Four years ago, at age 22, Anderson appeared to be on a glide path to the 400-meter hurdles at the London Olympics.

His training had been flawless. His body was in perfect shape. He was confident. Nothing could stop him.

And then, the unthinkable.

“I pulled my hamstring in April of 2012, right in the heart of my training,” Anderson told this week. “I had opened the season with the leading time. I pulled my hammy and got healthy a month later, but then a week or two before the trials, I pulled it again. The trials didn’t go too well. I did well in the first round, but the pain was there. By the second round, I just couldn’t recover.”

Anderson didn’t make the team. He watched the 2012 Olympics from home, wondering what could have been?

“I was devastated,” Anderson said. “It honestly took me more than a year to get over it. I had to get healthy and regain confidence in my legs, which was tough.  It took a bit of a toll on me mentally.”

But fast forward to the present and the outlook is bright. 

He’s turned in impressive performances in recent races, and posted a season-best 48.92 seconds last month in Tempe at the Sun Angel Classic. The fastest 400-meter hurdles he has ever run is 47.93 seconds. The goal, he said, is to consistently get under 48 and keep that going through Rio. 

“Everything is going really well, I’m just happy to be back in the Northwest again,” said Anderson, who moved to Seattle last fall after two years in Arizona with Nike.

“I’m training with my former WSU coach. To be back with a familiar face and with someone who knows me better than anyone is a real blessing.”

That decision has him on path for a great shot at the Olympics, but it has come at price. Leaving Arizona also meant leaving the underwriting that comes with Nike sponsorship. 

The allure of working with his old WSU coaches made the sacrifice worth it, he says. But the move also means he’s searching for financial support to keep him on the track. A group of fellow Cougars recently launched a Crowdfunding page for his efforts that can be found HERE.

THE FORMER WSU COACH WHO is helping Anderson on his Olympic quest is Mark Macdonald.

At WSU, he guided Anderson to history with three NCAA championships in the 400-meter hurdles and four more title at the Pac-12 championships. Along the way, Anderson also managed to play a little receiver for the Cougar football team.

“Jeshua has always had the focus, but I could tell he lost a little bit of that confidence when he had the injury,” Macdonald said. “But when he came back up here from Arizona, I could tell he was on a mission. We started working together in September and every day he shows up with that fire. You can tell he wants this.”

Macdonald ran track at WSU from 1987-1992 and became a full-time WSU track assistant in 1995. He remained on the staff in Pullman until 2014. 

“The 400-meter hurdles is seen in the track world as the hardest event,” Macdonald said. “In practice, we try to make his training more difficult than the race. We’ll put in twice as many hurdles. He recovers so fast that we can do three 400-hurdle races in an hour, which is pretty grueling. We’ll set up the flight of hurdles up a hill. What can I say, the kid likes to work hard.”

It’s not just Macdonald helping out, though. Tim Manson, a former WSU track star who won the Pac-10 title in the 800 meters in 1988, also is an integral part of the training.

Anderson’s training routine is, for lack of better description, breathtaking.

He works out six to seven hours a day, six days a week, first with Macdonald in Seattle and then Manson in Bellevue.

“My body has been built to get beat up a little bit, but recover and be ready to go for big meets,” Anderson laughs.

“It’s a team effort,” says Manson. “My goal with Jeshua is to get him explosive and more mobile in the hips. He’s so powerful and strong that we just want to get his steps right and make sure he’s flashing through those 400 meters. He’s a special athlete and what makes him great is that he’s an all-around athlete. That’s why he’s a three-time NCAA champion. He’s pretty much a legend.”

Anderson will be at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon this Saturday, then Atlanta for another competition next weekend before heading to Europe for a series of races. 

“I’m feeling really confident right now,” he says with energy. “I’ve been 100 percent healthy throughout my training. In some of my early races, I recorded world-leading times. I’ve just got to keep chipping away and hopefully put out a personal best in the coming weeks.”

“He’s one of those guys that when everything comes together, he’s so explosive and fun to watch. We just have to make sure he’s healthy. At this point now, it’s all about trusting the training and letting the body do its thing. He’s going to peak at the right time. In track, it truly is one day at a time and one race at a time,” Manson says.

“Imagine if the NBA Draft was once every four years and only three kids got drafted. It’s tough, but he’s passionate about this and putting in the necessary work to make his dreams come true."

Anderson said his time in Arizona gave him a fresh start after the 2012 heartbreak and the opportunity to be around so many world-class athletes was affirming.  

“Now I’m back in Seattle and I’m getting so much love from my Cougar family. It’s giving me that second wind.

“All the support adds fuel to the fire. It makes me want to work hard, stay humble and make sure I keep up with the grind. I’m all about the hard work ethic. That’s what got me success at WSU. I’ve got to keep it going and make sure I get this done. It’s been my dream for so long. I’ve just got to keep running, man.”

JESHUA ANDERSON (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

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