By Stacy Thacker, University of Montana
Growing up in Indian Country and running endless dirt roads has proven to be successful for Alvina Begay, Navajo, who qualified for the Olympic Trials last weekend at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitation in northern California.
Begay is also an ambassador of the Nike N7 Fund and program. Native Americans, especially Native athletes, are starting to make a bigger impact in the news more and more these days and Begay is proof of that.
They have proven to many younger and probably older Natives that hard work and a goal can take you further than you could have ever imagined.
After reading about Begay's success I couldn't help but beam with pride. Another Native runner headed to the Olympic Trials! This is big news! Although I'm sure the trials will be less glamorous than the open spaces that Begay is used. Running those long reservation roads can intimidate you, inspire you and just plain wear you out. However, there’s something about them that keep you coming back for more.
Begay ran a personal best running time of 32:34.76 in the 10K. Her time was 11 seconds under the standard set for an Automatic “A” sectional of the U.S. Olympic trial standards.
Not long after her race did Begay’s Twitter page start to flood with congratulations on the race. Begay herself was excited about every aspect of the race as she tweeted, “Got the Olympic trials A Standard with a 32:34. Won my heat and got a big PR. Very happy!!!!!”
Inspired by her father's drive for running Begay began to dream of the Olympic Trials. She pursued it with force and after failing to make the trials on her first attempt earlier this year, she decided to take a step back and focus before diving in again.
In a video posted on ndnsports.com Begay shows her amazing ability to run. She starts off slow at the back of the pack but some where in the middle she passes the gap and ends up with the lead pack where she stays at a good pace. Begay is the only woman of color in the race and apparently the only one with a hard name to pronounce because the commentators call her “Olivia Begay” at one time or two. Watching her break through and take the lead was a great moment, once she takes off she starts to lap on a few other girls and keeps the lead to the finish line where she finishes first. At that point it didn’t matter that the commentators knew nothing about her, or that they couldn’t get her name right. All that mattered was that Indian Country had a one of their very own qualify for the Olympic Trails this June at the University of Oregon.
Not only is she fast, she is intelligent. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in nutrition from Arizona State University and is currently working on a master's degree in health administration at Northern Arizona University. A great combo for anybody trying to juggle both school and sports. I however do not have this ability and have to take it one thing at a time.
Whether it’s running dirt roads, jumping over sage brush or being the best sheep herder and mutton eater, there is a goal in the heart of every one of us. It’s our job to find it and work at it. As many have proven before, it might take more than one try before you get the results you want. So before calling it quits I suggest you take a look at the world around you and decide if you want to be a part of it in a greater sense. If you think yes then get going. If Alvina can do it, so can we!
Stacy Thacker (Navajo) is from Navajo, N.M.