R.J. Anderson, the 2A state 400-meter champion and honor-roll Key West High School student, has signed a national letter of intent to compete on the track and field team at Baylor University in Waco. The sprint powerhouse made the announcement yesterday, and Anderson made it official when he inked his name to documents this morning in a ceremony at school.
Anderson, who notched a 47.47 one-lapper only fifteen months after beginning his track career, becomes part of an NCAA program that has produced some of the best long sprinters in history, including 200m and 400m world record holder and multi-Olympic Gold medalist Michael Johnson and 2004 Olympic 400m champion Jeremy Wariner.
"R.J. is a soccer player who has only been running track for two years, so he has a lot of potential," Baylor Head Coach Clyde Hart said. "Even though he is inexperienced, we were impressed with how he's developed in two years. He will be able to help us immediately once he enters a full-time track program and he's already run a 46.1 relay split."
Anderson blossomed from a sprinter who mainly ran the 200m as a junior and recorded an impressive, but not sensational, time of 51.31 in what would later become his impact event into a national-caliber force this spring. Anderson was also a stalwart on the Conch 4 x 800m relay squad that advanced to the 2A finals this spring, and anchored his team to a school-record 3:18.86 with a phenomenal, bleachers-clearing effort that saw him reel in his fastest 2A rival, Glades Central's Alric Arnett, in the waning feet of the 2A Region 4 race.
The lanky Anderson is a relative latecomer to track and field, but high-level competition requiring speed, strength and dedication is literally in his blood. Father Ron was a starter for the Ohio State Buckeyes football team and played semi-pro ball post-collegiately, while mother Natalie was a national-class figure skater. The younger Anderson -- also named Ron -- attributes much of his improvement over the past year to attending a track and field camp in Vermont over the summer and running cross-country in order to build strength for managing the waning portions of 400- and 800-meter races and handling multiple rounds and races on the same day.
Anderson's combination of humility and determination is as rare as his physical talents. He speaks with glee one moment of "hawking down" the opposition and in the next gives heartfelt credit for his successes to family, friends, coaches, his competitors and assorted other allies. Given his perspective and clear determination, America's southernmost continental city may well prove in a few years to have produced its next world champion quarter-miler.