RUNNING STRONG: Weber State track star reaching significant goals

Thursday , February 27, 2014 - 12:28 PM

Amber Henry, holder of seven Big Sky Conference track records, laces up her shoes before practice...

Dana Rimington, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

OGDEN — Amber Henry Schultz, 23, grew up on a cattle farm in Mountain View, Wyo., where she was constantly running after cows.

It was back then Schultz discovered she was a decent runner. She decided to join the track team in seventh grade.

Eleven years later, she is training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, having come in sixth place at the USA National Track and Field Championships in the 3,000 meter steeplechase last year. Schultz has also received nine Big Sky Conference titles and earned All-American honors three times.

Schultz is set to run in the last event of her collegiate career with Weber State University this weekend at the Big Sky Conference in Pocatello, Idaho. She is favored to win in the mile and 3,000 meter race. Schultz currently holds the best time for both events in the Big Sky Conference, according to her cross country coach, Paul Pilkington.

Though her college career is coming to a close, having run four years in both indoor and outdoor track with Weber State, her journey is only picking up speed as Schultz enters the professional world of running.

When Schultz competed at the USA National Track and Field Competition last year, having come in sixth place, she had to turn down the several thousand dollars of prize money to keep participating with Weber State.

Knowing the U.S. takes the top three runners for each event from the national competition to the Olympics, Schultz knows she has a chance at making it to the U.S. team in 2016 if she keeps up her training.

“She has a legitimate chance to make the Olympics in the next two years,” said Pilkington. “She is right now a top American runner, and right at that edge to be a world champion.”

When Schultz joined the track team at Weber State University, she was recruited to run the 800 meter, but then her coaches discovered she had good strength and a great cardiovascular system, which her coaches knew would make her a good candidate to be a national champion.

“She has a genetic gift that gives her good natural endurance with the ability to get oxygen into her muscles,” said Pilkington. “But the other thing she has is very good leg speed, allowing her to get good kick that sometimes limits distance runners, but gives her that edge to run and win races.”

The women’s head track and field coach, Jim Blaisdell, said talent isn’t all that makes her a winner. “She has a good positive attitude, and is a tough Wyoming girl having hauled hay and delivered calves on the farm, so she’s not afraid of working hard,” said Blaisdell.

Schultz runs about 50 to 70 miles a week. “It’s something I am able to work hard at and excel, and is not only a good stress reliever, but is something I can work harder at and get better,” said Schultz.

Schultz’s coaches moved her to longer-distance running her sophomore year after discovering her additional talents, but it turned out to be a difficult time for Shultz. “I had run myself into a hole, overtraining, and not giving myself good enough maintenance, so I had to learn how to balance everything,” said Schultz.

All her hard work paid off for Shultz last year at the outdoor conference. “I had won my events, and seeing the happiness in my parents and coaches eyes, is the reason I run, knowing it makes people happy and showing that hard work pays off.”

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