Anderson and the Olympics: Now it's a race

AS REMARKABLE AS FRESHMAN Jeshua Anderson's track season at Washington State has been, and it has been remarkable, there's been an undercurrent of thought that dominating the Pac-10 doesn't equate to competing seriously for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. That view changed this past weekend, when Anderson scorched his way to an NCAA title. His chances now, suddenly, seem not so distant.

Anderson clocked a school record and personal best 48.69 in winning the NCAA 400 meter hurdles title this past weekend in Des Moines, Iowa.

That time truly put Anderson, still just a 19-year old freshman, in with the Olympic team contenders.

It was the fifth-fastest time this year by an American man, and the third-best by a collegian. Georgia's Justin Gaymon, who finished third in the NCAA final behind Anderson, earlier this year ran a time of 48.53, the best in the college ranks this year.

Still, there remain significant challenges ahead for Anderson if he is to go to Beijing.

The junior outdoor track and field championships are this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, where Anderson will face off against Johnny Dutch who has clocked a 48.68, a time 1/100ths of a second better than Anderson's personal best. The event is not scheduled to be televised.

Update, Friday 3:43 pm: Anderson on Friday afternoon won his 400-meter hurdles prelims with a winning time of 50.19 to advance to Saturday's final, to be held at 3:15 p.m. PT. "It was really windy," said Anderson. "I wanted to stay relaxed and concentrate on some things we worked on in practice. Today was a light run for me and tomorrow I will pick it up."

The Olympic track and field trials (TV coverage on USA, NBC networks) start June 27 in Eugene, with the men's 400-meter hurdles final slated for that Sunday. The top three from the race make the U.S. team.

And currently, Anderson's time of 48.69 ranks No. 10 on the list of qualifiers' personal bests.

The thing about the 400-meters, though, is that the best performances are often run when the competition is the greatest. Indeed, as the level of competition has risen this year, Anderson's times have been faster and faster.

Who knows what kinds of times Anderson might put up over the next two weeks.

Anderson has said he plans to play football this season regardless of whether he makes the Olympics team, although that would be a tall order since at the same time the Olympics will be going on, Washington State will be immersed in their fall camp, and it would presumably take some time for Anderson to switch gears from track and get into football shape.

The top ten personal best times in the 400 meter hurdles for those who have qualified for the US Olympic Trials.

James Carter     47.72  qualified
Kerron Clement   47.79  qualified
Michael Tinsley  48.02  qualified
Bershawn Jackson 48.13  qualified
Kenneth Ferguson 48.15  qualified
Derrick Williams 48.26  qualified
Angelo Taylor    48.45  qualified
Justin Gaymon    48.53  qualified
Johnny Dutch     48.68  qualified
Jeshua Anderson  48.69  qualified

NOTABLE NOTE: Former Cougar offensive tackle Sam Lightbody is attempting to get to the Olympic Trials in the discus.

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