Return of the Runners

A new generation of runners

A new generation of runners

Published December 9, 2015

TOHONO O’OHDHAM INDIAN RESERVATION—Running is a vital part of many Native American cultures Historically, Native Americans tribes have integrated running into their cultures for traditional purposes and as a means of survival. The community of Santa Rosa Day School, located on the western part of the Tohono O’odham reservation, is reviving a tradition of running.  Santa Rosa Day School won the Arizona State Championship without a coach in 1978. The runners became leaders in their own ways to pursue their championship. In 1982, Santa Rosa Cross Country took 2nd place at the Southern Arizona Cross Country Championship.  Now, after a long interlude, Santa Rosa Day School is birthing the next generation of runners.

Santa Rosa Day School Cross Country entered their second season in September. Finding enough runners to build a team was challenging because other sports on campus have been a priority.  The only option was recruiting.  This year, a former teacher recruited two runners and the other two were on team from last year. They ran several meets including the Kiwanis Amigo Invitational in Tucson, Arizona and the Desert Twilight Invitational in Casa Grande, Arizona. At Desert Twilight, they ran against some of the top runners from Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.  At the competition level, the Middle School team runs anywhere from 1.2 to 2 miles at each meet.

After three tough Southern Arizona Invitational meets, the team traveled to the Dishchii’Bikoh Invitational in Cibecue, Arizona on the White Mountain Reservation, where the runners placed in the top 10. This was their first reservation invitational meet and their comment was, “The course was like running back home in the village.” It made the race easier on them mentally and physically.

The students practiced once a week and occasionally on weekends by running 3 miles. They learned that practicing and maintaining a healthy diet are essential to become a better runner.  Every invitational meet was a new experience for them. Initially, they had to overcome uncertainty about their abilities. Their mentor, Jeremy Yoyetewa told them at one of the invitational meets, “Runners have one thing in common which is pain, but it’s all mentality. It’s up to you to see how tenacious you are ignoring the pain and begin to push on.”   With each run, they became more resilient and more confident of their ability to endure the heat, run well, and honor their O’odham culture.

Their final meet for this year was the Arizona State Cross Country Championship in Anthem, Arizona on October 31, 2015. As they stepped to the line, they applied the skills they had learned from their past invitational meets to run their best race. The championship was a difficult race for them and they know they are all winners. Running has made these youth physically and mentally stronger. Running makes the culture strong, increases pride, self-esteem, cultural identity, and brings the community together.




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