No excuses: There’s a good example to follow in WSU’s Henry

June 12, 2012

Next time you hear a millionaire athlete say he or she can’t play because they’re not “100 percent,” think about Weber State runner Amber Henry.

Next time you’re perusing the scoreboard page and you read about a Major League ballplayer who’s on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained earlobe, think of Amber Henry.

Next time you say to your wife, “Honey, I think I tweaked my hamstring cutting the lawn. Sorry, but there’s just no way I’m gonna make that party at your parent’s house tonight,” pray she’s never heard of Amber Henry.

See, Amber Henry is incredibly tough. So tough, in fact, she puts the rest of us to shame.

During last week’s NCAA track and field championships in Des Moines, Iowa, the 21-year-old junior slipped while leaping a barrier and dislocated her left elbow halfway through the steeplechase finals.

Undaunted, the Mountain View, Wyo., native finished the race, crossing the finish line with a time of 10:26, good enough for 11th place and All-America honors.

“There was half a second where I thought, ‘Oh my gosh I think my arm just twisted off,’ ” Henry explained Tuesday. “When I looked at it, it didn’t look normal. But I was like, ‘No. I am not rolling over and quitting. I am going to finish this whether I have one arm left and one leg left. I am going to finish this out.’ “

Although Henry’s words are indeed inspiring, mere words cannot do justice to her toughness.

Those who were on hand to witness the whole thing were stunned by what they saw.

“I had six coaches come up to me after — that night and the next day — and say to me, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,’ ” WSU coach Paul Pilkington said. “They were like, ‘Oh my word!’ “

Remember, this all happened about 1,400 meters into the 3,000-meter race, an already grueling test that includes water jumps and barrier leaps, plus all-out running.

Running with a good arm is one thing, doing it with a dislocated elbow is completely different. Oh and that’s not all, Henry was already dealing with a fractured left clavicle, which she suffered while winning the 1,500 meters at the Big Sky Conference championships, and a sore knee she sustained a couple days before the NCAAs.

Pilkington saw the fall last Friday and knew it was serious, but knew Henry was determined to finish the race.

Her left arm was dangling, so she tried to fashion a makeshift sling with her uniform. When that didn’t work, she popped it back into place and kept running.

“She just extended it out and it went back in,” Pilkington said.

Yikes, right? I mean, just reading about it probably makes you a little queasy. Imagine being in Henry’s shoes. It takes hours and hours of effort just to get to the NCAAs. Surely in that split second all that training flashed before her eyes.

In most instances like that, adrenaline takes over and helps sustain the injured athlete. In Henry’s case, that’s exactly what happened and afterward she told her coach she felt that rush surge through her body.

“The problem with that is, it’s not there late in the race when you need it,” Pilkington said.

Of course none of that mattered. The only thing Henry was thinking was, “Finish what you started.”

And she did, bravely and … spiritually.

“Instead of getting very frustrated and down on myself (after finishing), I had to start counting my blessings,” she said.

Earlier in the season Henry qualified for next week’s Olympic trials, but as of Tuesday her ailing right knee wasn’t allowing her to run. The plan is to be reevaluated on Thursday before making a final decision.

Although a trip to the trials would be an amazing experience, Henry already has a story to someday tell her grandchildren.

As for the rest of us, good excuses just got a littler harder to come by.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at jburton@standard.net. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247