Colin and Lynne Anderson, U.S. track and field Olympians in shot put and discus who later married, agreed that their only child, Thomas, would not compete in the sport.
The sport did not seem to want Thomas, either. When the Andersons brought Thomas, then about 4 years old, to his first track and field meet, he received jeers from the crowd for mistakenly running across the track.
"That traumatized him," Lynne said with a laugh. "He didn't go back to a meet for years."
Now a junior track and field standout at Andover, Anderson draws only admiration from crowds. Following his parents' path in athletics, Anderson ranks as one of the nation's top throwers. His personal best shot put mark of 65 feet, 4 1/2 inches is tops in the nation among juniors and tied for seventh overall this spring. It also ranks second all-time in Minnesota high school annals.
Once reluctant, Anderson's parents have helped him excel. Lynne, now in her 31st season coaching Gophers throwers, works with her son on discus in the summer. Colin, an assistant coach at Andover, works with Anderson in both events during varsity competition and focuses on shot put in the summer.
"My mom didn't really want me to do track," said Anderson, who recently qualified for the Class 2A state meet in both shot put and discus. "She thought there would be too much pressure on me. But I made it my choice to do track and I guess I'm pretty good at it."
What surprises Lynne is how far her son has progressed in a relatively short amount of time. She said top throwers usually start as sixth-graders. Anderson made his debut two years later as an eighth-grader.
A quick study and hard worker, Anderson qualified for state in shot put as a freshman. He took third in the event as a sophomore last season and also qualified for state in discus. And he has gone from a glider to spinner, a change in technique that should provide even better results as he progresses.
"There's still a lot to learn," Lynne said. "He's starting to see things when watching throwers on YouTube he didn't see before. He's picking up the language and learning anatomy. But we keep the concepts simple. Colin does that really well. I have a tendency to give a dissertation and lose him after about three sentences."
Thomas agreed: "There's definitely been, 'I just need time; please be quiet,' moments. Definitely some of those coach-child quarrels." But he said the experience has brought him closer to his parents while fast-tracking his development.
"My mom can pick out the smallest detail that caused one of the big problems and fix it," Anderson said. "My dad can do that, too. He's not as good as my mom at picking up the tiny things, but he knows exactly what to do to fix something."
Colin and Lynne boast tremendous credentials as athletes and coaches. Colin, who competed at the former Golden Valley High School, became the first male in state history to surpass 60 feet in the shot put. He later won a Big Ten title in the event and earned a spot on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team (which boycotted those games).
A native of Eugene, Ore., Lynne (née Winbigler) reigned as the American record holder in the discus from 1977-79. She made the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic teams. In 31 seasons with the Gophers, she has coached women to All-America honors 22 times and men to All-America honors six times. Colin coached with Lynne for several years. The couple worried their accomplishments might cast imposing shadows.
"It can wear on a kid," Colin said. "I mean, if Thomas doesn't make the Olympics, is he a failure?"
Anderson insists there is no chip on his shoulder when he throws, just a shot put.
"I had expectations from people that knew my parents," Anderson said. "All my friends expected me to be great. I'm completely fine with it. I really want to live up to those expectations and then surpass them."
Anderson hopes to surpass the state shot put record of 65-6 set by Mounds View's Nate Englin in 2003. He's got the distance; he just needs it to be in official competition.
"I've had a couple throws in practice that were high 65, low 66," said Anderson, who said he went 65-10 in warmups the day of his 65-4 1/2 mark. "It's there. It's just got to be the right day and the right time."
Colin said his son's ultimate shot put goal is becoming the state's first member of the 70-foot club, a mark that would put him well on his way to making his own legacy.
The Andersons have a trophy case residing, Lynne said, "in the man cave downstairs" and she figures her son must have spent time looking at its contents. But, she added, "he's not easily impressed."
Not so. Whatever heights Anderson achieves with pedigree and persistence, he remains proud of his parents' legacy.
"I've always wanted to be great," Anderson said. "Just like my parents."
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574