By Santee Ross, University of Montana
Breaking records and becoming champions is just how the Hopi High boys and girls cross country teams roll—state titles, say what.
Earlier this month. both the Hopi High boys’ and girls cross country teams won the Arizona state championship. The boys team set a national record by winning the 22nd consecutive in the state while the girls won their fifth consecutive championship.
I remember my mother telling me back in the old days when Hopi people were running all day every day. They would run up the mesa and back down. They would run back and forth between the mesas. I remember thinking, were the outhouses just far away or something?
Back in high school, I was never an athlete, I didn’t play ball or run. I felt that I somehow missed out on the athletic genes that flow through my marathon running mother or my father’s wicked skills with a basketball.
Secretly though, I wanted to run with the power and grace my mother holds. I wanted to run like my ancestors did, up and down and between the mesas. I kept that secret tucked away for myself but never forgot it.
Last year I went through a really tough emotional time—buckets of ice cream and all. After wallowing in self-pity for a couple months I told myself I wasn’t going to be a sad victim. That’s when I started to run.
At first my spare tire just bounced up and down for about two blocks before I thought I was going to die. Slowly and block by block, I improved. I started to feel strong and sure-footed, aching to see how far I could run.
Soon I found that place that most runners talk about as a “high.” It’s doesn’t really feel like a high but a kind of quiet. This place you find yourself in where the world falls away and your energy fills you up. It’s like a spiritual kind of connection.
Maybe that’s why my Hopi ancestors ran all the time. There was a kind of spiritual connection they found in running—or maybe their outhouses really were just far away, who knows.
Those Hopi boys and girls have runner’s blood in them, so it’s no surprise they have claimed state titles for cross country running. I congratulate both teams on their excellent performance and winning state titles—go on wit your bad selves.
Santee Ross (Hopi/Lakota) is from Lander, Wyo.