DES MOINES, Iowa--Jeshua Anderson (center/photo by Paul Merca), the freshman wunderkind from Washington State University, proved to those who questioned whether he could seamlessly make the transition from the high school distance of 300 meters to 400 in winning the NCAA 400 meter hurdles title Friday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.
Anderson, the Pac-10 and NCAA West Regional champ, was behind Auburn’s Rueben McCoy as they cleared the final hurdle, but the national high school record holder in the 300 hurdles made a final surge to catch McCoy and win the national title by 2/100ths of a second in a time of 48.69.
"This is a blessing. I thank God for everything he's done for me," Anderson told CBS television commentator Dwight Stones after the race. "I haven't been able to race against fast people so just being in this race is a blessing. I set my goals high and for my collegiate year I accomplished what I wanted to and that was to be a champion at the NCAA Championships."
When Cougar hurdles coach and former intermediate hurdles All-American Mark Macdonald was asked if Anderson followed the race plan said, "That was exactly the race plan. Before he went out for the race we talked about what would happen and that was pretty much exactly what happened. Based on where he makes his changes in his race, going from 13 steps to 14, we knew he would fall back a little bit but the plan was to be set up for the 10th hurdle and the finish. With this plan he is all left-leg lead except for hurdle nine and that is where he fell back a little bit. Then he has about 80 meters of all-out sprint with his good lead-leg. You know Jeshua has this weird lean and he's good at it. It isn't something we taught him but maybe he learned it back in junior meets. He gets his chest way out there. It obviously served him well tonight."
Anderson's 48.69 seconds time is the fifth-best this year by an American man, and the third-best by a collegian, as Georgia's Justin Gaymon, who finished third at the NCAA final, ran a time of 48.53, and Johnny Dutch of South Carolina has run a time of 48.68. Anderson's time also surpassed the US Olympic Trials "A" standard. He will return to Pullman with the team late Sunday evening and then rest and mentally prepare for the US Junior Championships June 20-21 in Columbus, Ohio. Stating "there is still room for improvement," Macdonald said Anderson would watch race tapes and focus on the competition next weekend before thinking about the July Olympic Trials.
In yet another surprise, University of Washington junior Jared O’Connor, who was nowhere close on the national radar during the regular season, continued his magical run, tying for second in the men’s pole vault, clearing 17-2 3/4.
Only one vaulter, Texas' Maston Wallace, was able to clear the next height of 17-6 ½. Among the remaining six vaulters that cleared the previous height, only O'Connor, Nick Frawley of Air Force, and Yavgeniy Olhovsky of Virginia Tech had no prior misses, thus the trio tied for second. O'Connor earned 6.33 points.
"Coming in here I was definitely a long shot to say the least," said O'Connor. "To come out here in adverse wind conditions and suck it up and do the job I needed to do feels great. The key today was just hitting everything on first attempts and I did that."
O'Connor adds to Washington's ever-increasing legacy of pole vault excellence, earning his first career All-America award. He is the highest-finishing Husky at NCAA's since new American record-holder Brad Walker won the NCAA Indoor Championship in 2004. Last year, freshman Scott Roth placed eighth at NCAA's, but Roth redshirted this season with a foot injury. Since 2000, four Husky men have combined for eight All-America honors in the pole vault, all under the watch of assistant coach Pat Licari.
"It feels great," said O'Connor on his newly minted All-American status. "I think that there's better heights to be had in better conditions. I'm looking forward to just keep jumping and reaching my highest potential."The Cougars’ McKenzie Garberg finished sixth in the women’s hammer, throwing 210-3, then followed it up with a fifth place finish in the discus, throwing 174-10, later in the day.
Washington senior Norris Frederick placed seventh in the men’s high jump, clearing 7-1 1/2. Senior Carl Moe finished eighth in the 3000 steeplechase, as the Husky ran a personal best of 8:41.83.
NCAA indoor champ Ebba Jungmark of WSU finished a disappointing ninth in the high jump, as the Swede only managed to clear 5-9 3/4. High jumper Trent Arrivey finished ninth in his event, clearing 7-0 1/4.
Fellow Cougar Jon Jeffreys placed 11th in the javelin, tossing the spear 207-3.
Eastern Washington’s Mattie Bridgmon ran 16:35.28 to finish 13th in the women’s 5000 meter run, just off her EWU school record time of 16:33.60, set earlier this season.
Washington’s Jordan Boase won his semi-final in the men’s 400 meters, running 45.23 to defeat USC’s Lionel Larry (45.68), the two-time defending Pac-10 champ.
Running in the first semifinal heat of the 400m dash, Boase needed only to finish in the top-three to advance to Saturday's final, but Boase asserted himself from the start and eased to the finish in 45.23, his third-best time of the year. He also assured himself of his fourth All-American award by making the final.
"I knew I had to get out fast to run with the guys. I just tried to stick with the guys on the outside and see how I felt. I felt good enough with about 150 left to kind of go past them so I did. I didn't feel like I was trying my hardest the last 75 so hopefully I've still got more in the tank for tomorrow. Sprinting isn't all that complicated. You've just got to run as hard as you can, so that's all I've got to do."In Saturday’s final day of competition, Boase and 1500 meter runner Amanda Miller, along with 800 meter runner Austin Abbott will compete for the Huskies, while Washington State counters with 800 meter runner Anna Layman. University of North Carolina junior Brie Felnagle from Tacoma, the defending champion in the women’s 1500, rounds out the field of Washington state affiliated athletes competing at the NCAA title meet.
Tomorrow’s meet will be carried live on CBS Sports starting at 1 pm, Pacific time.
NOTE: The sports information offices of the University of Washington and Washington State University contributed to this report.