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‘Late bloomer’ Anderson developed into standout hurdler, scholar while at OC

Luke Anderson became not only an outstanding hurdler at OC, but also received numerous awards for his combination of both academic and athletic achievement.
Luke Anderson became not only an outstanding hurdler at OC, but also received numerous awards for his combination of both academic and athletic achievement.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of stories telling the stories of the 2014 inductees into the Oklahoma Christian Athletic Hall of Fame.

By Murray Evans
OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 22, 2014) – It’s not a stretch to say it was a foregone conclusion that Luke Anderson would attend Oklahoma Christian – it’s where his parents, Julie and Steve, met and where his grandfather, Stafford North, has served on the faculty for more than half a century.

But even though he knew he’d eventually attend OC, Anderson had no inkling he would be able to compete in track and field for the Eagles – much less become one of the best hurdlers in the program’s history – or that he’d succeed to such an extent that he would receive numerous national awards.

A self-described “late bloomer” who didn’t come into his own on the track until he reached college, Anderson will be one of six people inducted Friday into the OC Athletic Hall of Fame.

“The one thing I’ve said about him – if you wanted to find an outstanding collegiate student-athlete, then I think of Luke Anderson,” OC track and field coach Randy Heath said. “He could have gone to any large university on an academic scholarship but he chose Oklahoma Christian, because he wanted to be a part of Oklahoma Christian.”

Anderson grew up in Edmond attending OC events, learning about the campus and its programs, and said that “I never really wanted to go anywhere else … I knew it was a great place.”

At Edmond Santa Fe High School, the ultra-competitive Anderson found a niche on the Wolves’ track team as a hurdler, working with a coach, Carl Hawkins, who had been a collegiate hurdler himself. Anderson credits Hawkins with teaching him proper hurdling techniques, which proved invaluable throughout Anderson’s career.

Anderson finished second in the 110-meter hurdles at the Class 6A state meet as a senior – but he never won a race while in high school. Heath approached Anderson after the state meet to see if he was interested in running the hurdles for the Eagles.

“I didn’t even think about that being a possibility until my senior year,” Anderson said. “Just from my family ties at the school, I thought I could walk on. … I loved running and knew it would be fun and something I would enjoy at the university level. I wasn’t recruited much because I was a late bloomer. I knew OC had a strong athletic program … and to get to be a part of that legacy was a lot of fun.”

In collegiate track, the hurdles used in races are higher than those used in high school races, but because of his proper technique, Anderson made a seamless transition while former rivals struggled somewhat.

He broke his winless streak during his freshman indoor season in 1998 and went on to win the Sooner Athletic Conference outdoor title that year in the 110-meter hurdles – an event he’d end up winning four straight years at the conference level. Heath thinks Anderson is the only OC track athlete ever to accomplish that feat.

As a junior, he earned the first two of his four NAIA All-America honors, finishing sixth in the 55-meter indoor hurdles, then running a leg as OC finished sixth in the 4x400-meter indoor relay. During the outdoor season, he set a SAC record by winning the 110-meter hurdles at the conference meet in 14.80 seconds, but suffered an injury midway through the same race at the NAIA Championships.

In 2001, as a senior, he again earned All-America honors in the 55-meter indoor hurdles, finishing fifth at the NAIA meet, then ran fifth in the 110-meter outdoor hurdles in 14.76 seconds, breaking his own conference mark.

“To get to go to nationals and compete, even my freshman year, that was a blessing,” Anderson said. “It was the level of competition that was right for me. I enjoyed going on the trips and those things. To be at a level that was in my sights if I worked hard, it was really fun.”

Perhaps his athletic success shouldn’t have been surprising, considering his athletic genes. Both his grandfathers ran collegiate track – North at Abilene Christian, Jerry Anderson at what is now Missouri State – and Jerry Anderson also was a two-time most valuable player at the NAIA national basketball tournament (in 1953 and 1954).

“My family is so supportive,” Luke Anderson said. “They took care of the other kids on our team and cheered them on, too. I was fortunate to have a family that was invested and to have that support system. That gives you a confidence, a stability, a lot of love in your life. You’re blessed to have that.”

As successful as he was on the track, Anderson was even more so in the classroom. He graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average in Bible/Ministry. He was a part of OC’s Vienna Studies program as a sophomore in the fall of 1998 and in 2000, he was named as the SAC recipient of the NAIA’s A.O. Duer Award, given to a junior student-athlete who has excelled in character, playing ability and scholarship.

He was a two-time first-team Academic All-America selection by the College Sports Information Directors of America and remains one of only six OC student-athletes who have accomplished that feat. Also in 2000 and 2001, he was a two-time NAIA Scholar-Athlete.

In 2001, the NAIA named Anderson as the recipient of the Dr. Leroy Walker Sportsmanship Award, considered one of the NAIA’s highest honors and given annually to a student-athlete who combines outstanding academic achievement with campus and community leadership. Anderson attended the NAIA convention in St. Louis, then later was feted at the Citizenship Through Sports Alliance Summit in Indianapolis.

Anderson also was named as the Division II recipient of the Woody Hayes National Scholar-Athlete Award, presented for excellence in academics, athletics and community service, and traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to receive that honor.

In his letter recommending Anderson for the Walker Award, longtime OC English professor Joe McCormack – then the director of OC’s Honors Program – praised Anderson.

“The students in that program are intelligent, highly motivated, disciplined, and driven by a high sense of integrity,” McCormack wrote. “None of the some 65 students I have taught, however, has risen any higher in my estimation than has Luke Anderson.  … He has met all my expectations and more; his performance in that highly accelerated course was impeccable.”

Anderson credited longtime OC sports information director Stan Green for nominating him for the academic honors.

“If it wasn’t for Stan, I wouldn’t have won a single award,” Anderson said. “He was amazing and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for that. He really took good care of me. I got to go to Columbus and Indy and that’s because Stan did it. It was good PR for the school and I appreciated that because I wanted to be a good ambassador for our school.”

After graduation, Anderson spent some time in youth ministry in Sherwood, Ark., before moving to Johnson City, Tenn., where he worked for a time as a financial planner and in a law office before taking a job with Pier One. He later managed Pier One stores in Clarksville, Tenn., and in the Nashville, Tenn., area before moving to his current position as a manager for a Pottery Barn store in suburban Nashville.

But he always looks forward to trips back home to Oklahoma and this one will be special.

“I’m just grateful for all the opportunities that OC afforded me,” Anderson said.