By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Concentration, conditioning, commitment.
Those are the three keys to a successful long distance runner. When former Arizona track star Tom Ansberry takes his evening run through the incessant downpours of Portland, Ore., it is with his mind on the ultimate goal of reaching the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.
Ansberry, a long-time competitor in the 10,000 meters, is also training to run the marathon in the Olympics. Both tryouts will be held early in 1996. Until then, he has focused on a constant barrage of training for both the mental and physical aspects of the race.
“You have to stay mentally focused and physically prepared,” Ansberry said. “I work on strength, stamina and concentration. The most important thing is the commitment.”
That commitment has often been difficult. Ansberry has undergone several life changes this year, including the birth of his five-week old son. He has a family life and a job, but he still finds time to run 90 to 100 miles a week.
His workouts include lifting, shorter runs in both the morning and the afternoon, and a longer run of about 20 miles once a week. Ansberry competed in his first marathon in Chicago earlier this year, but was unable to continue after experiencing fatigue and muscle cramps in his legs. He blames that on a lack of commitment.
“If I’m not prepared mentally it really shows,” he said. “I had a lot on my mind at the time. I’m not giving up, though. Hopefully, I’ll bounce back and compete in L.A. and have a run for the Olympics in ’96.”
Ansberry is involved in the Home Depot Olympic Job Opportunities Program (OJOP), which supports Olympic hopefuls by providing flexibility in schedule and financial assistance. The program is helping to support 20 U.S. athletes in their
hopes of making the Olympic team. Ansberry is able to work 20 hours a week and receive full-time pay while retaining a flexible schedule that allows him to train and compete.
“It is incredibly difficult for an athlete to continue to train for the ultimate in athletic competition — the Olympic Games — because of the financial and time constraints. Through OJOP, corporate America has answered the call of our elite athletes,” said US Olympic Committee President LeRoy T. Walker.
Said Ansberry: “It would be much more difficult to train without the help of Home Depot. I wouldn’t be able to work out as often or as hard as I do. It’s difficult to balance my family and my workouts, but it would be even more so without the support of my work.”
Ansberry has shown promise since he was first able to lace up his running shoes. He was born in Okinawa, Japan, where his father had been stationed, but grew up in Tucson. He discovered his talent when he began running in elementary school. He ran a mile in five minutes and three seconds as an 11-year-old, which he said was a world record at the time. Ansberry went on to compete at Santa Rita High School in both track and cross-country and won four state titles, including two in the mile and one in the two-mile. He was a standout at Arizona and graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in water hydrology.
Ansberry has continued steady improvement over the last two years after a 1992 fifth-place finish in the U.S. Olympic trials. Ansberry is training in Portland on the request of his trainer Alberto Salazar, who has put together a group of four runners. Nike is also one of Ansberry’s sponsors and is responsible for helping to train the group. He took first place in the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Knoxville, Tenn., earlier this year. He said he is running as well as he ever has.
“I’m not always putting up the times I was able to make in the past,” Ansberry said, “but I’m able to overcome the adverse environments. I won my first championship in Tennessee where it was hot and sticky. I credit my conditioning.”
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