Cross Country • At No. 13, Wildcat women enjoy highest-ever national ranking.
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Ogden • Amber Henry set the bar for toughness mighty high at Weber State. It would be difficult for a member of either cross country team to use a bruise or bump as a reason not to train or compete.
Henry, who will lead the 13th-ranked Wildcat women to the Wisconsin Invitational on Friday, the final meet before the Big Sky Championships on Oct. 27 in Flagstaff, Ariz., knows about commitment.
During last season's NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the Mountain View, Wyo., native not only ran the 3,000-meter steeplechase finals with a broken clavicle, torn meniscus and bruised femur, but fell during the race and dislocated her elbow.
Henry used her jersey as a sling and, after catching up with the lead pack, popped the elbow back in place.
"You get bucked off, you get back on. I guess everyone's really tough in Wyoming," Henry said with a trace of a not-so-tough giggle.
"Everybody thought she had broken her arm," WSU coach Paul Pilkington said afterward. "Everyone kind of gasped when she got it back in place, then cheered her on. What an unbelievably tough competitor."
Experiences like that have helped grow Weber State's cross country program, one that was, at best, an afterthought on the national scene. Even the school's name was sometimes mispronounced as Webber.
With victories at the Utah State Invitational and the BYU Autumn Classic and a second-place finish at the prestigious Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn., only behind fifth-ranked Iowa State, the running world has noticed the likes of Henry and teammate Sarah Callister.
Last year, WSU's women qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships, finishing 29th.
"Funny, no one really knows where Weber is," Henry said. "Last year we made a little bit of a statement. This year we've shown up at bigger meets."
Weber State was ranked 19th in preseason polls, but has steadily climbed to its high-ever ranking. The Wildcats are also ranked first in the Mountain Region poll.
Henry has been named the Big Sky Conference Cross Country Athlete of the Week three times, including last week when she place third at the Roy Griak, finishing behind two Iowa State All-Americans.
"In my mind, I'm just another runner whose on the cross country team to help me build for track," Henry said. "I'm still worried that I can't do it."