MISSOULA — New school, same results.
In a nutshell, that is the story of Sadi Henderson.
After starring as a cross country and track and field athlete at Boise State, Henderson took her talents even farther west and to the Bay Area at the University of San Francisco. It will be that uniform that the former Corvallis standout will don this weekend at the NCAA DI Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Austin, Texas, in her final meet as a collegiate athlete.
After making the outdoor national meet twice with the Broncos, Thursday’s semifinal race of the 800-meter run will mark the third time she will compete in college outdoor track's largest stage. Henderson also advanced to indoor nationals twice in her career as well.
Leaving Boise State was not easy for Henderson, but it was a move she knew she needed to make. San Francisco’s head track and field and cross country coach Pat McCurry was an assistant with the Broncos and Henderson’s middle distance coach. When he left for USF, Henderson opted to follow him.
“I love Boise and there were 1,000 reasons why I wanted to stay, but my gut said to follow and it’s been awesome,” Henderson said.
And Henderson admits that move was hard at first. Along with adjusting to a new city, she said she essentially had to redo her freshman year and take a bunch of freshman classes in the fall that are required at USF. For example, Boise State is a public school while USF is private, so she had to take a theology class.
“It’s completely different,” she said. “It’s been crazy. It reminded me of how hard freshman year actually was. I’d say that was more of an adjustment than anything else.”
But things have smoothed out since and Henderson said she is on track to graduate with her undergrad in business in December.
On the team, getting to know her new teammates had its own adjustments as well. USF’s team is a smaller group than Boise State so that group dynamic allowed her to become acquainted with them quickly. But she still was forced to be patient because she didn’t run cross country in the fall and exhausted her indoor track eligibility last season. McCurry said she had a strong fall in terms of training but she dealt with a knee injury around the holiday season that cost her some running time over the winter and early spring.
So they adjusted her training and eventually that patience paid off. Henderson finished in third place at the NCAA West Preliminary Championships in Sacramento, California, and enters Thursday’s semifinal with the third-best time of 2:03.31. The event begins at 7:44 p.m. and Henderson will run in the third of three heats.
Texas A&M’s Jazmine Fray (2:02.27) and Boise State’s Kristie Schoffield (2:02.65) are the only two times faster than Henderson. Both will also run in the third heat. The top two runners from each heat plus the next two fastest times will all advance to the finals of the 800 which are scheduled for Saturday at 5:44 p.m.
And she won’t be the lone representative from USF at the national meet. Her teammate, senior Dana Klein, will compete in the 1,500.
“Her and I have gotten really close through her athletic journey with Pat, so I kind of got to watch her go through what I went through when Pat first became my coach of discovering her athletic potential,” Henderson said. “It’s been really fun being there for her through that and there’s a few girls on the team that had similar experiences.
“The girls are a lot older as well on this team, so I was surrounded by people like me. It was an adjustment but it’s been good.”
McCurry spent 12 seasons as the head cross country and track and field coach at the College of Idaho before heading to Boise State in the fall of 2016 where he coached Henderson for two seasons. He said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a head coach again when the USF job opened, and in his discussions with Henderson, made it evident to her the advantages she would have if she opted to stay with the Broncos.
The decision was ultimately left up to her and McCurry has since watched his star athlete grow even more.
“In those differences there’s been a massive opportunity for growth for her,” McCurry said. “I took over a team here where she was the only athlete that I had any experience with and so she really had a significant leadership role here.
“She was kind of here training for most of the year waiting to compete and she was filling that role for the majority of the year and then finally got to start racing in March. She certainly deserves a ton of credit for the culture we’ve built here in year one.”
And while Henderson will say how nice it was to have a familiar face in McCurry around in a new territory, the feeling is mutual as he was navigating life as a head coach again.
“It was absolutely massive. I would say Sadi was almost an assistant coach and kind of a mix of athlete and staff a lot of the year,” McCurry said with a laugh. “Because she knew my training system and coaching style, she was able to really help the girls understand my craziness probably a little bit. It was a huge help and nice to have one athlete that everything wasn’t totally new for.”
Regardless with how Henderson’s final go at outdoor nationals goes, it will mark the end of what has been a successful career on the track for her. At Corvallis, Henderson was a three-time Class A state cross country champion and added seven state titles to her resume in track including relays.
That success carried over to the college ranks. Henderson was a four-time All-American at Boise State, taking second-team honors twice in indoor and once in outdoor in 2017 and earning honorable mention All-America in 2018. She was also a six-time Mountain West Conference champion — five times indoor — where she won the 800 three times while participating on the champion distance medley relay team three times too. Her one outdoor title came in 2017 in the 800.
Quite the decorated career for a small-town Montanan.
Though everything is coming to a close, Henderson isn’t taking the time to get too sentimental just yet. That will come later.
Right now, it’s all about the task at hand.
“I’ve been so narrowed in on this journey so I haven’t taken much time to think about that,” she said. “It’s not easy competing in Montana either. Those are some brutal conditions so a part of that built me to be who I am now. I carry a lot of Montana pride with me.
“I have a really clear idea of what I need to focus on and those are the things that in 10 or 50 years from now I want to keep with me about this journey anyways, so that's all I need to worry about. This is the end of my collegiate journey so I’m looking forward to finishing it with my coach Pat and my teammate Dana. It couldn’t be any more perfect.”