Tradition of Champion Native Runners in Boston Continues

Courtesy Wings of America /Sheyenne Lewis at the finish line with her bib.

Native American runners will be recognized at the Boston Marathon this year through the "Pursuits" program

With legends like Billy Mills (Lakota) and Tarzan Brown (Narragansett), and dozens of other world class athletes in the books, there’s no denying that indigenous people have left a remarkable impact in the world of distance running.

Today, the legacy lives, as talented young Native runners far and wide continue this tradition of athleticism and endurance at all levels of the sport. The Boston Marathon is possibly the world’s best known distance race, and for the second year in a row, its history of Native champions will be recognized through a program called “Pursuits.”

New to the program this year, several high school age Native runners will have the opportunity to participate. It is sure to be a life changing experience in athletics and academics for all who are selected to go. All eligible Native student runners are strongly encouraged to apply.

The program is a collaborative effort between Wings of America (a non-profit organization dedicated to American Indian running), the Boston Athletic Association, and Harvard University. Five Native American high school juniors will be selected to travel to Boston for Marathon weekend as they once again celebrate and commemorate the incredible legacy of Native American achievements in the event.

Courtesy Wings of America /Sitting left to right, Ronnie Toledo (Onondaga/Jemez), Caroline Sekaquaptewa (Hopi), Tiffany McMaster (Diné); (Standing L-R): Dustin Martin (Diné), Steven Ovah (Hopi), Andrew Yazzie (Diné), Sheyenne Lewis (Diné).

Dustin Martin (Navajo), Wings program director, ran in the Boston marathon last year. The energy and overwhelming enthusiasm of the event encouraged him to work toward coordinating fundraising, continuing the Pursuits program, and planning the inclusion of high school runners at the 2017 Marathon.

“I truly believe that contact with such positive energy has the potential to change a spectator’s life for the better forever,” Martin said. “The fact that we are able to couple such an awesome cultural experience with college readiness workshops and visits makes it a match made in heaven for impressionable minds.”

Last year, the Pursuits program accomplished its goal of “honoring past champions, celebrating the running traditions of Indigenous peoples and educating others as to their relevance today.” This year, in addition to once again achieving this level of recognition, Native student participants will join a swath of exciting events. The program includes:

-College visits, counseling and a dorm stay facilitated by Boston-area Universities

-A symposium hosted by Harvard University that will continue the conversation begun by Billy Mills and Oren Lyons during Marathon weekend in 2016

-The B.A.A. 5K hosted on the Boston Common the Saturday before the Marathon

-Museum and research institution visits in the Boston area, and the Boston Marathon as volunteers somewhere along the race route.

Courtesy Jim Davis /From left to right, Sheyenne Lewis (Diné), Dustin Martin (Diné), Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota), Robert de Castella, Ronnie Toledo (Onondaga/Jemez).

The basic criteria for eligible applicants includes the following:

-Be a current high school junior

-Have a cumulative high school G.P.A. of at least 3.0

-Be able to provide proof of membership in a federally or state recognized tribe or Alaska Native -Corporation in the United States.

-Be able to provide proof that you have taken or are currently signed up to take the ACT or SAT.

The application, due March 17, also includes several essay questions and further fundraising expectations. For the full application, as well as more information on the history of Indigenous runners and its influence on the Pursuits program, please visit the Wings website: http://www.wingsofamerica.org/boston-marathon-pursuit-program/

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