Amber Henry: Weber's diamond in the rough

Amber Henry 3
(Source: Paul Pilkington)
Amber Henry runs at the NCAA track and field nationals. Henry has broken many Wyoming and Weber State University track records.

As Weber State University runner Lindsey Anderson took the women’s track and field world by storm in 2007, Amber Henry, then a sophomore at Mountain View High School in Wyoming, was making her own waves.

While Anderson broke the NCAA record for the steeplechase and qualified for World Championships, Henry, now a senior at WSU, was breaking state running records. Henry has since put her name in the record books next to Anderson, and has lofty goals as she approaches her final season in the purple and white.

Henry grew up on a cattle ranch in the small town of Mountain View, where she played volleyball, basketball and track during her middle and high school years.

“I was always running and active as a kid,” Henry said. “I was either chasing the cows or running away from the boys.”

Her breakthrough moment came in her freshman year when she was entered in four different events at the state regional meet, the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

“I think that I realized my potential my freshman year when I ran four events at regionals and won,” she said. “Then I won those same four events at the state meet.”

Henry graduated having won 15 individual state titles, while setting the state record for the 800-meter run in both the 2A and 3A classifications. She not only caught the attention of track coaches but Chadron State College, a Division II university in Nebraska, offered her a scholarship to play basketball.

“Since I played basketball too, I got offered a scholarship to go and play at Chadron State,” Henry said. “But I just felt and knew that I would go farther in track.”

Henry’s road to the cross-country team was unexpected because she had been recruited to run the 400- and 800-meter dash. After concluding her freshman year, the coaches felt it was a good idea for her to get some more training with the cross-country team. After attending cross-country camp, she was encouraged to run at the first meet. She ended up placing third overall on the team.

“The coaches felt that it would be good for me to train with the cross-country,” Henry said. “I did pretty good and kept up with the girls, so they thought I might as well run the first meet. I placed third, so I made the traveling team. My sophomore year was a really big learning experience.”

The rest is history, as Henry has become one of the most decorated runners in WSU history, but that hasn’t come without its trials. During the spring of 2012, as the end of track season was coming, injuries started to pile up. Racing with a broken collarbone and injured knee during the 3,000-meter steeplechase in the NCAA championships garnered her attention from local newspapers and running websites such as Flotrack and Letsrun. Running through that pain was an inspiration to her teammates.

“It’s hard to think of one exact thing that she does great just because she is so modest about everything,” said WSU senior Mike Hardy. “But she always has a positive attitude and never is scared of doing things that seem impossible.”

Henry has excelled on the track and in cross-country, where she has achieved the status of All-American twice, become a nine-time Big Sky individual champion and led the Wildcats to their first Mountain Region cross-country title this past fall. She holds the school records for both the 3,000 and 1,500 meters. She’s also excelled in the classroom, earning numerous academic awards and maintaining a 3.88 GPA while majoring in nursing.

“It was difficult to juggle running and nursing school,” she said. “I would just run, go to school, run and study; that is all I would really do. Sarah Callister was a huge inspiration to me; I thought, ‘If she can do the same thing as me and get a 4.0, then I can make it through the program.'”

Head coach Paul Pilkington had high praise for Henry, and said he knows her best running is still ahead of her.

“She has went from a national-class runner to a world-class runner this spring after her performances in the steeplechase,” he said. “I am always pleased by the way that she goes out and performs.”

As Henry enters her final cross-country and indoor track season, she is not taking anything for granted, having set lofty goals for herself.

“Just like everyone else, I want to go out there and try my best,” Henry said. “I want to leave it all out there when I am done. I know that I can be All-American again and place top 10 at Nationals in cross-country. It would be cool to win a national title in indoors.”