Amber Henry is on pace to be the most accomplished distance runner in Weber State history.
And it's a fast pace: The Mountain View, Wyo., native is only a junior.
Henry is famously tough; she ran to second-team NCAA All-America status in the steeplechase last year despite both a broken clavicle and torn meniscus. Another tough challenge lies ahead in making the jump from All-American to world class, a category Henry has set her sights on with the eventual goal of making the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
She wants to follow in the footsteps of Weber State distance runner Lindsay Anderson, who ran in the steeplechase in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and is now an assistant coach for the Wildcats.
But first up is the NCAA outdoor track and field championships to cap her junior year, and then Henry's senior season at Weber State.
Henry is one of two WSU runners who will compete in the 3,000 meter steeplechase trials and finals this week in Eugene, Ore., running with the women Thursday and Saturday. WSU's John Coyle will run in the men's trials today with finals on Friday; he is ranked 12th in the nation in steeplechase and has run the 10th best time in school history.
Henry led the Wildcat women's cross country team to its second straight Big Sky Conference title this year and scored 30 of the team's 55 points at the outdoor track championship meet. She has won the league in cross country twice and though she missed the indoor season, became just the 10th Big Sky athlete to win three titles in the outdoor championships, winning the steeple-chase, 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters in Portland, Ore., recently.
With seven Big Sky titles already to her name, head cross country coach Paul Pilkington says Henry can leave Weber State as the best distance runner in school history.
Anderson, her assistant coach, still holds the school record in the steeplechase, a mark Henry would like to take before she's done.
"I want to get it," she said. "Records are made to be broken. If I have any records, I expect them to be broken but it's one more thing to shoot for, I guess."
Henry does hold the WSU record in the 1,500 meters. She also has the second-fastest steepl-chase time in school history and she will break the 5,000 meter record any time she decides to, Weber State head cross country coach and distance coach Paul Pilkington says.
"She has some skill she's been gifted with athletically," Pilkington said. "She has the leg speed so she can kick at a national and world class level; she has great closing speed. There are very few people in the country that can run away from her in any race. No matter what race she's in she's going to be a factor."
The favorite in the steeplechase, Colorado's Emma Coburn, is an Olympian; reaching her level would move Henry from the All-America level to world class, Pilkington says.
Henry said racing Coburn is not going to be any more difficult than her regular practices working out with Anderson, another Olympian.
But whether or not she surpasses her assistant coach's record in the steeplechase, she's earned her place alongside her in school history, Pilkington said.
"She's having a better career across the board than even Lindsay Anderson in terms of what she's able to do in cross country and indoor and outdoor track," he said. "Lindsay was better in her event than Amber has been so far but Amber is going to be an All-American for the third time and she still has a cross country and indoor track season (to go in her career)."
After Henry proved her mental toughness a year ago by running in the NCAA championships with the broken clavicle and torn meniscus, she proved it again in the classroom this year by joining teammate Sarah Callister on the academic All-District team.
Despite the achievements of her still-incomplete career, Henry says she is more proud of the maturity she's gained through hard work and the opportunities she's been given.
"Also it's cool to be able to say that I've had these accomplishments and give motivation to people in other areas of life," including upcoming runners from her hometown, she said.
"I know there are a lot of kids back home that talk to me. I hope I'm showing them if you dedicate yourself and work hard at something it can happen," Henry said. "They're just like me; not that I'm any higher than anyone else, I'm just hoping I'm doing something good."
USU: Utah State track and field will be represented by senior sprinter Will Henry and sophomore high jumper and heptathlete Chari Hawkins at thechampionships.
Henry will compete in the semifinals of the 100 meters today. Hawkins will begin competition in the heptathlon on Thursday and the high jump finals on Saturday.
SUU: Southern Utah University's Nate Jewkes will make a second national appearance this season, running in the men's 10k on Thursday night in Eugene, Ore.
UTAH: Utah's Amanda Mergaert will compete for the Utes at this weekend's championships. A senior All-American in both cross country and track, she qualified for the 1,500 meters for a third consecutive year.
BYU: Seven BYU competitors are headed to the NCAA finals.
Kelsey Brown and Natalie Stewart of the women's squad will compete. Brown ran the seventh fastest 800-meter time in the NCAA this season. Stewart was ranked 56th nationally in the 400 meters run heading into the NCAA preliminary round, but qualified in the top 24.
On the men's side, All-American Victor Weirich will be in the pole vault.
Ryan Waite and Curtis Carr will also compete in the semifinals on Wednesday in the 800 meter run and 3,000 meter steeplechase.
On Thursday All-Americans Jared Ward and Tylor Thatcher will compete in the 10,000 meter run finals. In 2012, Ward took fifth place in the same event.