Native Village
Youth and Education news
September 2010 Volume 4

Running warriors
Condensed by Native Village

New Mexico: For many competitive Native runners, their running careers end when they graduate from college and enter the job market.

In turn, they miss out on competing at the national level during their prime running years.

Mike Daney, Choctaw, was among them. Because of his experience, he became director of Sports Warrior Track Club. SWTC helps post-collegiate runners realize their dreams.

Runners for SWTC train and live all over the country. Some have competed at the USA Track & Field championships and Olympic qualifying trials.

“I see the under representation of the Native American athlete on the elite level," he said.  "I want to give young people the opportunity to compete at a national level.”

But the group of elite runners is small -- only 5 -10 runners travel once a year to a national track meet. To help raise funds for this trip, Daney founded the annual 5K National Championships and Open Community Run.

This year's Community Run was held in June at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute   Nearly 170 elite and amateur runners and all levels of walkers participated. Events were held for ages 3 and up.

 “I’ve got visions of grandeur, I want every Indian person to be healthy,” Daney said.

The winner of each age division was awarded the title, "National Champion."

Part of the money raised goes toward the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute Running/Fitness Club. Daney, who teaches health and Phys. Ed. at SIPI, was impressed when several students suggested the Club be developed on campus. 

“Instead of just preaching it in the classroom setting, now I can do it on a casual level with them.”

Meanwhile, Daney's goal is bringing the first co-ed team to the upcoming championships. His eyes are set on Tana Kaskalla,  Zuni Pueblo, the overall female winner and national champion of the open division at the 5K run.

“Yeah, he’s been twisting my arm,” Kaskalla, quipped.  She is also vying for a spot on the team.

Each year brings new runners and the return of the most dedicated runners to SIPI.  Angelo Baca, who finished third at the 5K run, began running for SWTC in 2004. He made it to 2004's Olympic trials but didn't qualify. Now 30, he has no plans of slowing down and continues to compete and work on improving his time.

Baca praised Daney for his many years of dedication and encouragement. “ "Mike is an ambitious guy," Baca said, "...always pushing forward and ahead, not just as a coach but as a real life mentor for all of us.”

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