Running to Beijing
It has never been easy to track down Lindsey Anderson.
Just days after her qualifying steeplechase performance at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon on July 3, Anderson became even more difficult to reach - although not for the reasons you may think.
Back in Utah and in between training sessions, Anderson was running into a few obstacles off the track.
"I'm so sorry I missed your call," she said from a supermarket parking lot on Monday afternoon. "I just locked my keys in my car - and it's running!"
It was a dose of normalcy from the former Weber State All-American and current Wildcat assistant coach who has catapulted into the national spotlight with her second-place 9 minutes, 30.75 seconds 3,000-meter steeplechase performance. That run earned her a spot in the first-ever women's Olympic steeplechase next month in Beijing.
Now, life is anything but normal, though she is no stranger to success.
At Morgan High School, the former Lindsey Olsen won five state track and cross country titles and held starting positions on both the girls' soccer and basketball teams. Still, she was only modestly recruited by colleges in her senior year, but Weber State head track and field coach Jim Blaisdell could not ignore her potential.
"She ran good times, but they weren't tremendous," said Blaisdell. "What I liked about her was she was an all-around athlete. She just got better and better each year and, of course, she's super now."
In her first two years at Weber State, Anderson continued to develop into what she called "a pretty good college runner" before world-class marathoner Paul Pilkington took over as distance coach. Under Pilkington's direction, Anderson went from "pretty good" to Olympic hopeful in just one season, cutting her 3,000 meter steeplechase time from a modest 10 minutes, 20 seconds to qualify for the Olympic trials with a then-NCAA record of 9 minutes, 39.95 seconds, which earned her an endorsement deal with Nike.
It was only then that Anderson really thought she had a chance to make it big.
"It wasn't until I hit that mark that I really believed," she said. "Then I thought, 'Wow. This is pretty cool.' As I kept training it all became more exciting and more real to me."
Still, Anderson knew she would have to pull off the race of a lifetime on the legendary Hayward Field at the University of Oregon to make the Olympic team.
She did just that, breaking her previous personal record by almost 9 seconds and becoming the first Weber State track athlete to qualify for the Olympics.
In doing so, Anderson added herself to a long list of great Utah steeplechasers that includes Brigham Young's Henry Marsh, WSU's Farley Gerber and the trio of BYU women - Michaela Mannova, Elizabeth Jackson and Kassi Andersen - who won national and collegiate championships in the event before it was allowed into the Olympics.
"The timing has just been perfect. Everything just came together at the perfect moment," she said. "It is so exciting to come down knowing that I was going to make the Olympic team on the last straight-away. There are no words to describe that feeling."
After the race, Anderson basked in her second-place finish by signing autographs, including one for a self-proclaimed "Lindsey Anderson Fan" from Michigan who donned a Weber State sweatshirt he purchased online to show his support.
"[Lindsey's] so nice, she signed every last autograph. She wouldn't turn anyone down." said Pilkington, adding, "When you set a goal and work for it, it's pure elation. She was ecstatic, but she knows she can still run faster."
However, Anderson is quick to attribute the majority of her success to the unrivaled support of her former teammates with whom she still trains, her family, and the rigorous training plan instilled by coach Pilkington.
"My husband has sacrificed so much for me to be able to do this," she said. "I owe so much to him and coach Pilkington. I couldn't have ever done it without the support."
* Utah's Lindsey Anderson will be competing in the first women's Olympic steeplechase.
* Anderson set myriad marks at Weber State before finishing second at the U.S. trials July 3.