Amber Henry, a senior at Weber State University, traveled to the Historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon to compete at the NCAA Championships this past week. She placed third in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, earning All-American status.
Henry had one of her best races during the semifinals on Thursday. Just as she had a week earlier, she led a majority of the race and won her heat with a time of 9:58.82. She was one of the 12 runners to qualify to run in the finals on Saturday.
“I felt really good about the semifinals. It was one of the best-all-around races that I have had all year,” Henry said. “I felt like I was almost perfect going over the water barrier; it gave me a lot of confidence heading into the final.
Henry had her sights set on not only breaking the school record, but trying to take down an Olympian. Emma Coburn from the University of Colorado placed ninth in the London Olympics last summer and won the NCAA steeplechase title back in 2011.
“Coach and I felt that if I could run between 9:39 and 9:41 that I would have a chance if she slipped or something happened,” Henry said. “Emma just gets out quick and then just keeps going.”
The final took place Saturday afternoon, and the race unraveled just as Henry had expected. Coburn got out quick and set a fast first, but Henry settled into second place, followed by Colleen Quigley of Florida State University, constantly hitting the pace.
Henry was within 20 meters of the leader until the last lap, where she felt like she just didn’t have the turnover she was used to having. Even without her signature kick down the stretch, she crossed the finish line in third place with a time of 9:43.39. She had run a personal best by eight seconds and recorded the best finisher by a WSU runner since Lindsey Anderson finished in second place in 2007. Her time was .39 seconds short of achieving the International Association of Athletics Federation ‘A’ standard.
“I felt good during the race; it was eight seconds faster than I had ever ran before,” Henry said. “I was on pace every lap, but I just did not have any leg turnover at the end of the race. I would never say that I am completely satisfied, but I am going to focus on the good things from this race and move on from there. I still have a little left and still want to get the school record.”
Head coach Paul Pilkington said he was very proud of Henry’s performance.
“Amber just ran great; she ran the way we thought she could,” he said. “She went from a national-class runner to world-class after that. I was just so pleased by the way that she performed. She has the sixth-fastest time by an American this year and has put herself into the mix of things for USAs.”
John Coyle, a senior at WSU, also competed at the NCAA Championships in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. He finished with a time of 9:12.47 in the semifinal round, ending his season, in which he set new personal records in the 1,500 meters and steeplechase.
“My season went almost as good as I wanted,” Coyle said. “I was coming off some sickness in the winter and battled my way through those early races. I was not disappointed in my season at all, just the way it ended.”
Henry will return to the track at the USA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, June 20-23, where she will compete for a spot on the United States team that will travel to Moscow, Russia, in August.