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Special gold
July 29, 2013

Eric Anderson and three Delano teammates earn medals at the Special Olympics state meet

By Matt Kane
Sports Editor

STILLWATER, MN — There is a good chance that those who regularly shop at Coborn’s in Delano have had their gallons of milk and loafs of bread bagged and carted by Eric Anderson.

Anderson is the most recognizable employee at the Delano grocery store, due simply to his position and longevity. For more than 11 years, he has been bagging groceries at the front of the store and braving all weather conditions while fetching carts in the parking lot.

Shopper who have had the privilege of being helped by Anderson in the past month may have noticed a few shiny pendants hanging around Anderson’s neck for several days. Those pendants were actually medals, as in Olympic medals. More specifically, Special Olympics medals.

One of the medals was bronze and the other was gold.

“People were saying ‘Congratulations,’” Anderson said of the customers’ reactions to his new bling.

Anderson claimed the track and field medals in at Stillwater High School June 21-22 at the Special Olympics Minnesota State Tournament. He captured the gold in the pentathlon and the bronze in the 4x100-meter relay.

As for Anderson’s gold medal, which glistened against his company-issued maroon vest, one customer was impressed after finding out what event it came from.

“The pentathlon,” one impressed Coborn’s customer questioned recently after paying for his groceries. “If you are going to win a gold, that’s the event to do it.”

Anderson earned the honor of becoming the best pentathlete by winning the high jump and shot put, combined with second-place finishes in the 100 meters, 400 meters and long jump.

“It was exciting when I got the gold,” said Anderson, who moonlights as a host at Applebee’s one day per week. “When it was over, I felt like I had won it. I was just happy to win.”

And, so, too, were his fellow Coborn’s employees.

“It’s a huge deal for him, and we are all very proud of him,” said Anderson’s boss, Linda Hayes, the front end manager at Coborn’s. “He worked hard. He wore the medals for a week.”

Anderson’s Coborn’s coworkers were well aware of his athletics, as he routinely posted his competition schedules and results in the break room.

“When I came in to the store, I showed all of my coworkers and customers my medals,” Anderson said.

Hayes pointed out what Coborn’s shoppers already know, that Anderson is the face of Coborn’s.

“He is one of the best employees we have. He has been here since the store opened,” she said. “The store community knows Eric and the people who shop here know Eric. His is our community tie with his reputation from the store and also his reputation from his athletics.”

The 27-year-old Anderson teamed with Elise Farniok, 17, Jacob Praska, 12, and Elena MacLean, 13, in the relay.

All four are from Delano, and claimed a total of nine medals at the state competition. Farniok won gold in the long jump and shot put; Praska won gold in the long jump and 50 meters; and MacLean won silver in the long jump and 100 meters, and bronze in the 400 meters.

“I am very proud of them, and Eric, especially,” said Andrea MacLean, the Delano Delegation’s organizer, of the local medal-winners. “We had tough practice schedule because of the weather.”

The Delano team began training in April, with the volunteer help from the Delano High School girls track and field team.

“It was amazing to see the girls track team come out and help us in practice and coach us in our skills,” MacLean said. “Those girls were very willing to help out and very enthusiastic. It was a positive event.”

Anderson and many of his Delano teammates hope to add to their athletic reputations, starting this fall, when they participate in bowling. During the winter, Anderson and others will play on the Delano Special Olympics basketball team, and many hope to participate in swimming, if the team can find a coach.

“Just competing is fun for them because it’s a chance for them to be out there and doing it,” said MacLean. “Just like anybody, they get excited when they win a medal. Just a positive organization — the Special Olympics.”

The Special Olympics Minnesota State Tournament includes 1,500 athletes from around the state of Minnesota, ages 8 to senior citizen.

Anyone interested in joining the team or volunteering as a coach can contact Andrea MacLean at (612) 741-3401.

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