Open mobile menu

Henrik Anderson: Running for a Purpose

Henrik Anderson comes from a family of runners. His dad, Gary Anderson, ran track at Cedarville University and still owns some top 10 times in program history. His mom, Jennifer Lynne Matthews, was a member of the cross country team and met her future husband while at Cedarville.

Henrik is the middle child of three in his family and the child who has taken up the running mantle for the family. It’s his familial duty.

“I believe my family is a family of runners. It is integral to who I am. When I think about running, I don’t feel like I have a choice in what I do. It feels like I am being drawn to the sport by my very being,” Henrik said.

Henrik has steadily improved during his time on The Flats. In his first three races during the 2021 campaign, Henrik has set new PRs in the 5.2 mile, 6k and 8k. His sights are set on his dad’s times in the mile and 800-meter for the upcoming track season. Henrik is only a few seconds off those times.

“My determination comes from my mom. She is the most determined person I’ve ever known,” Henrik said. “I get my ability from my dad which is a lethal combination.”

Henrik credits his mom for passing on some important character traits. Matthews was known for her tenacity starting with her days at Cedarville. Gary recalls seeing Jennifer in frigid downtown Cedarville one night working on a class assignment. She is recording on a VHS camera for hours. This tenacity, determination and perseverance became a trademark for Matthews.

“My mom, from a very young age, instilled certain values in me. One of those values is the absolute grit. She succeeded in a way that most women do not,” Henrik said of his mom’s importance.

Matthews took that determination to a job working for the CIA. Her trademark tenacity was shown when the new recruits were asked what their plans were with the CIA. She said she was going to become the DCI – The Director of Central Intelligence.

She was called a visionary by one of her colleagues in counterterrorism. She was assigned to the Bin Laden Issue Station, commonly referred to as Alec Station, since its inception in 1996. After the US Embassy bombings in 1998, her once niche interest became a matter of national attention.

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, she was worked into a fury. She took every chance she could to help counterterrorism efforts around the world. In 2005, Matthews took a position in London as the CIA’s chief liaison on counterterrorism to Britain. The job was nice but not enough for the persistent Matthews.

At the end of her four-year tenure in London she applied for a new post in eastern Afghanistan near the Afghan-Pakistani border. The position was for base chief at Camp Chapman in Khost. The eastern Afghanistan town is in the heart of al-Qaeda territory. In April of 2009, she received word that she had been offered the position and with the encouragement of her husband, Gary, she accepted it.

Matthews would be leaving her three kids including Henrik behind for a year. Henrik was only nine years old at the time but had already gained the running bug from his parents. With Matthews leaving for Afghanistan, Henrik would start his running journey with his mom away from home.

Matthews arrived in eastern Afghanistan in mid-September 2009 with that same spirit from her collegiate days. She started a running club to bring a sense of normalcy. It took just a few months for Matthews to get her big break.

Humam al-Balawi was a Jordanian doctor who had climbed the ranks of al-Qaeda. He had been sending videos of the top leaders in al-Qaeda to Camp Chapman. This led the CIA to believe al-Balawi would be the man to lead them to Bin Laden.

On December 30, 2009, a meeting was arranged for al-Balawi at Khost to meet with the Matthews and other agents to exchange critical information leading to high ranking al-Qaeda officials.

Al-Balawi had a vest loaded with C4 strapped to his body. Once he was close to Matthews and her colleagues he detonated the device, killing seven, including Matthews.

This moment has shaped Henrik’s life. “I run for my mom. I run because it makes me feel closer to her,” he said. “Wherever she is, she is watching me run. She never missed a run while she was alive, and she isn’t missing one now that she is dead.”

It gave him a moment to look back to, a purpose for his running.

Before every race Henrik takes a moment to pray with his teammates. He then takes a moment to himself to talk to his mom. While his mom may not have been able to see him while she was alive, he believes she is still with him.

“I run for more than one reason, but I know my core reason that I can always come back to, that will never change or falter. No matter what I’m doing when I’m running, where I’m running, how fast I’m running or who I’m running with, my mom will always be there watching over me. She is going to be proud of the fact that I am doing what she loved. That brings me so much peace.”

When he’s out on the course or track, he is running for his mom. He is telling her story. He can connect with his mom. He can share her character.


Men's Cross Country PHOTO GALLERY: Spring Commencement

Student-athletes walk across the stage during Tech's graduation ceremonies at McCamish Pavilion

PHOTO GALLERY: Spring Commencement
Men's Cross Country Seventy-Eight Student-Athletes to Graduate from Georgia Tech

Commencement ceremonies set for Friday and Saturday at McCamish Pavilion

Seventy-Eight Student-Athletes to Graduate from Georgia Tech
Men's Cross Country Athletics Honors Yellow Jackets at Graduation Brunch

Tech celebrates its spring graduates ahead of next week's commencement ceremonies

Athletics Honors Yellow Jackets at Graduation Brunch
Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Legends Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets