Zach Anderson has no time to worry about mental distractions; rather than being a one, two, or even three-event athlete, he has to worry about 10. Anderson is a track athlete competing in the decathlon for the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
“It’s a mental thing; if you’re thinking about how you’re not going to do good, then you’re not going to do as well as you can,” said Anderson.
Anderson, from Frederic, Wis., went to UW-Stout because it had a great engineering program and is currently a junior. Upon graduating, Anderson plans to be a designer in the automotive or construction industry.
Prior to competing in the decathlon for the Blue Devils, however, Anderson was mainly doing hurdles, as well as the high jump and the triple jump.
“In high school I did three or four events so I was used to doing those events,” said Anderson. “My freshman year, I had never done any other events before so it took some time to learn a few things.”
“I was optimistic and I didn’t mind putting in the hours. Coach Laura Knudsen suggested that I try the decathlon, so I said ‘why not.’”
In just two full years at UW-Stout, that “Why not?” attitude has turned Anderson into the highest scoring decathlete in Blue Devils history. Anderson set a new school record with a score of 6616 points at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Invitational on Saturday, April 14, breaking the old record of 6573 points, set by Leigh Hartert in 1994.
“It just feels good to know that all the hard work that I’ve put in has paid off,” said Anderson. Even after a record-breaking performance, there is still room for improvement.
“My best event is the 400 meters, but I need to improve on everything,” said Anderson.
In the classroom, Anderson is a junior, but on the field he is only competing in his second year of eligibility because he had to sit out his freshman year due to injury. It may be ironic but it was during that year off that Anderson improved the most.
“I focused on technical events like the throws and did a lot of pole vault events,” said Anderson. “I think that year off definitely let me focus on the little things and had an effect on how things are going this year.”
Even thought the decathlon is an individual event, Anderson attributes having strong coaching and having good teammates to train with as the most important aspects of his success.
“Coach [Kyle] Steiner has helped me out a lot because he has a lot of little tips,” said Anderson. “He’s been where I am and knows how it is; it’s nice to have somebody to learn from.”
Only a sophomore in athletic eligibility, Anderson is not done, perhaps not even at his peak; there is definitely more to come.