When you talk to Megan Henry, SPA/BA ’09, on the phone, you’re greeted with an enthusiastic, determined voice on the other end of the line. She’s a calculated risk taker and dreamer looking to make the Winter Olympics Team in 2022. A Team USA Skeleton athlete and an Army Officer, Megan came to AU as a field hockey player under the coaching prowess of Steve Jennings.
“When I first arrived at AU, I had been looking at much bigger schools. I’d gone to DC as a child and loved the city, but never really considered it for college,” Megan says. “When I arrived, it was the field hockey team that really stood out. They were inviting and friendly. I felt like I’d come home”
After graduating from AU, Megan enlisted in the Army and nearly a year later was recruited to do bobsled through her AU strength coach. However, after being told she’d need to gain 30-50 pounds, another sliding sport came to her attention: skeleton. “In skeleton, you’re the one driving. Your results are determined by your own actions. I’d always competed in team sports before, so this was a new and intriguing challenge. I was forced to grow as a person and an athlete.”
Megan progressed quickly and was picking up the technique necessary for a successful skeleton athlete, becoming national champion in 2012. But just when she thought she’d gotten back to her athletic peak, she found herself fighting for her life. At a combine test in Utah, Megan couldn’t jog a regular warm-up lap without losing her breath.
“Something was really, really wrong with me,” she recalls. She was diagnosed with multiple blood clots in both lungs and a large clot in her pulmonary artery. “I went from training five or six days a week and being in the best physical condition of my life, to going in and out of doctor’s offices five days a week to manage my blood thinners. I didn’t understand what had happened to me, or the life I had.”
Megan refused to give up. She was determined to fight to regain her life and to advocate for fellow blood clot survivors. After intensive rehabilitation, she returned to skeleton fiercer than ever whilst also raising money for blood clot charities.
Skeleton athletes are entirely self-funded. “The most difficult part of being in a program that isn’t fully funded [is that it] takes away from the energy you must dedicate towards training. You choose to have something cheaper to eat over something that is better for recovery or performance,” Megan says. “You end up taking shortcuts.”
Megan currently represents the US Army’s World Class Athlete Program as the nation’s only skeleton athlete-soldier, balancing work, training, and earning a second degree in sports psychology.
“I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on what my potential is. It has been a very mindful experience and a huge source of a personal growth,” she says. “It’s not just about being a good athlete. Competing and overcoming life-changing experiences has helped me understand my own person.”