Wednesday, January 20, 2010

WSU coach Mark Macdonald writes about Jeshua Anderson...

Very few of us who are in this sport as a coach for an extended period of time (disclaimer: I actually coached at the high school and post-collegiate levels regularly from 1983 to 2002, and returned to coaching high school in 2008) are fortunate enough to work with world class level athletes.

Linda Chalich at Washington State University's sports information office is gracious enough to let us post this blog written by Cougar hurdles coach Mark Macdonald on prize pupil Jeshua Anderson (left/photo by Paul Merca), the reigning two-time NCAA 400 meter hurdles champion.

Macdonald talks about what Anderson's been up to after deciding to leave the football team after the Hawaii game at Qwest Field in Seattle in September to concentrate full-time on track, and Anderson's hiccup at last spring's Mt. SAC Relays.

Enjoy this read!


It has been nearly four months since Jeshua decided to hang up his football cleats and focus only on his track career. In those 4 months, not many people have heard much from, or about the Cougar track star. After the WSU football game in Hawaii, when Jeshua made his decision, he took 2 weeks off from both football and track. He took that time to rest his tired body and settle in with his stressful decision.

But since his return to track training in late September he has been training extremely hard. He has been approaching every training session with a passion. Every run he does, within every training session, he is attacking with this passion. It is impressive and inspiring to see how he is approaching his training. To visualize what it's been like for Jeshua this fall, picture this story: a couple weeks ago Jeshua went to do repeat 300m runs with the distance runners. That sounds easy enough, but the 300m runs were at 7:30 a.m. and it was 15 degrees in Pullman that morning with ice covering one end of the track. What does it say about a sprinter from Southern California who will get up before class to run with distance runners in 15 degree weather? Oh, and by the was his idea.

Right now he is better than ever and he knows it. In fact, yesterday in practice he said to me, `my confidence is at an all time high.' That's coming from a two-time NCAA champion.

This is my third year coaching Jeshua, so I have a good perspective on where he is in his training right now. I've been telling Coach Sloan for the past month that Jeshua is better now than ever. I've seen him win two NCAA titles, but the level of training right now is so good that it makes me laugh (literally within a training session I will laugh and think, "this guy is unreal." For example, last week in practice we ran a 500m - 450m - 350m set. In the 500m, I wanted him to come through the 400-meter mark in 51 or 52-seconds and finish strong. He came through in 48.5 seconds and finished strong! After about 5 minutes of jogging, I saw him by the start line dancing, ready for the next run. When Jesh knows he's killing a workout, it only fuels his fire. He feeds off his own success and it snowballs. And because he doesn't act like he's tired he makes it look easy.

One big reason why he's so good right now is the track-specific training that he's been doing. He's spent the last 3 1/2 months doing Pullman hills and stairs, running workouts like 20x200m or 12x300m; stuff he's never done before. For the first time in his life he is focusing only on track. What most people don't know is that Jeshua did not do one step of track training until mid-January the last two years. That is unheard of for a world class 400m hurdler. Last year, he was even more limited. Very few people know the true story of last year's NCAA title season.

Midway through the outdoor season (his 4th meet) Jeshua strained his hamstring at the Mt. SAC Relays. It was an idiot coaching move by me to let him run at Mt. SAC because I saw him rubbing his hamstring and knew something was up. He tried his best to lie to me about it because he wanted to run in front of his friends and family in Southern California. Anyways, he ran and fell in the race and stained his hamstring. He did not train on hurdles the rest on the season! We had one goal from that point on, and that was to get to the Pac-10 Championships feeling healthy. All of his training was slow, safe, strength work with no hurdles. We knew Pac-10s would be easy: he just had to stay on his feet to win. But the hammy got sore again before NCAA West Regionals. It was sore to the point where it was questionable if he could even run. So again the plan was to just get to NCAA's feeling good at the line. He did and he won. I guess my point is, Jeshua won another NCAA title without being able to train. That is why this year is so exciting.

For the serious track fan out in the Cougar Nation Blogosphere, I have another piece of insider information that very few people know about. Jeshua has been working in practice and matching the 400m hurdle stride pattern of Kevin Young when Young set the world record in 1992. Jeshua has been running 12 strides between hurdles (all other world class hurdlers take 13 or 14). He is doing this easily and it is very fast. The rest of the track world will get to see this when he makes his 2010 outdoor debut at USC in March.

But for now it's indoors. His high hurdles are going great and he's more excited about the 800m this year. His goal is to win the Bowerman Award (award given to the top collegiate track athlete) so he knows a good indoor season is important. He would like to get on the NCAA list in the 200m, 400m, 800m, 60m hurdles, 4x400m relay and Distance Medley Relay.

All-American high jumper Trent Arrivey had a great quote in practice today, saying, "If you have $5 in your pocket and Jeshua has $5 in his pocket, he's got more money than you." That's just how it's been going for Jesh lately.

Mark Macdonald WSU Hurdles Coach

P.S. One last story from the week: Because of Jesh's world ranking, he is subject to unannounced drug testing by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). This week in practice, the drug testing agency showed up right before practice. Since Jesh was all warmed up and ready to run, he couldn't "produce a sample." The testing agent said he could do the workout but he could never leave his sight. On this day we were outside doing some hill runs. Because the tester couldn't keep up, he was in his car driving up and down the hill with his pee cup waiting for Jesh to "produce a sample." Just another day in the life of a world class track and field athlete.


Isley said...

Mark Macdonald is hands down one of the best coaches around. Jeshua is very blessed to have such a great coach that cares so much about him. I cannot wait to see Jesh on the track! He's going to be ridiculous! Watch out WORLD!

Mercanator said...

If Jeshua can indeed run 12 strides between hurdles, he will be dangerous!

As an aside, USC freshman Reggie Wyatt broke Anderson's national high school record in the 300H last season, so this could be the start of something special in the Pac-10, not to mention his current rivalry with Johnny Dutch from South Carolina, who aced him out of the world championship team last year.

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