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Goal-getter — Anderson headed to Beijing after conquering self-doubt and frustration

Published: Wednesday, July 23 2008 12:11 a.m. MDT

Weber State's Lindsey Anderson, center, leads the pack during a qualifying round of the women's steeplechase at the NCAA championships.

Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press

After long, arduous training sessions on the track whipping her body into shape, Lindsey Anderson would retire to her home and work on her mind.

During the weeks leading up to the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, where she would compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, she wrote two things on a sheet of paper every day: "I will run 9:30. I will make the Olympic Team."

And then she did exactly that. Knowing that a top-three finish would secure a ticket to the Beijing Olympics, Anderson finished second with a time of 9 minutes, 30.75 seconds. — a full nine seconds faster than her previous personal record.

"I could've run faster," she told her coach afterward.

She'll have to if she hopes to meet her next goals. Already she has begun another written mantra as she counts down to Beijing. Every day, on the same sheet of paper, she writes: "I will make the Olympic finals. I will run 9:25."

"We talk about visualizing things, so that when she gets to the Olympic trials and these big meets, it's not so stressful, and she knows she can do it," says Anderson's coach, Paul Pilkington.

That wasn't always the case. Only two years ago, Anderson was so frustrated and filled with self-doubt after a seasonlong slump that she briefly considered quitting the sport. She had failed even to qualify for the NCAA championships that year.

Now she's headed to the Olympic Games, and even if that fact weren't on her mind 24/7 there are reminders everywhere, whether it's congratulatory text and e-mail messages and letters or via more direct deliveries.

"Good luck in Beijing!!!" a man yelled at her as his car sped past her during a training session on the roads last week.

The other day she and Pilkington were out for a training run on a back road in Ogden when a man driving a Qwest truck slowed down and shouted out the window, "Hey, you're the one on the Olympic team, aren't you?!"

As near as research can determine, Anderson is one of only a handful of native Utahns who have earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic track and field team during the last 100-plus years — among them, Richard George (javelin), Mark Enyeart (800 meters), Wade Bell (800 meters), Julie Jenkins (800 meters), Blaine Lindgren (110 hurdles), Ed Eyestone (marathon), Clarence Robison (5,000-meter run), L. Jay Silvester (discus), Tiffany Lott Hogan (heptathlon), James Parker (hammer), Amy Palmer (hammer), Alma Richards (high jump), Lee Barnes (pole vault) and Eddie Tolan (100 and 200 meters). Only five of them medaled — Lindgren, Silvester, Richards, Barnes and Tolan.

Anderson might be the least likely of them all. She is hardly a prepossessing specimen. At 5-foot-3, 110 pounds, she is usually the smallest woman in the race. This is clearly a disadvantage in an event that requires her to clear 30-inch barriers and hurdles 28 times and a 12-foot water jump seven times over the course of 7 1/2 laps.

"But she's a good athlete, and her technique is excellent," says Pilkington. "She's good over the water jumps and hurdles."

He says this as he puts Anderson through a training session in Ogden's City Park. She is doing a set of repeat 800- and 400-meter runs over a trail that winds around a small pond, past ducks and geese and joggers. Anderson and Pilkington come here to break the monotony of running on a track and because it's cool and shady under the trees.

"How do you feel?" he asks her a couple of times to determine the effects of the workout.

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