April 14, 2021

I was sent a feed by Andrew Dawson of Runner’s World about a young man who was running for his High School Cross Country team.  While that is not unusual, the fact that he was the only person on his team was.  This winter, the Yerington High School (Nevada) cross country team had five meets.  The sole runner on the team, Kutoven (pronounced COO-tuh-ven) Stevens, won all five meets, including the 2021 NIAA Northern 2A/1A Region Championships on April 3rd.  He covered the 5K distance in 18:04, beating the second-place runner by 37 seconds.  The 17-year-old junior had teammates for his first two cross country seasons, but this year the others either found new interests or moved away.  Out of the roughly 400 students in the school, he was the only one who wanted to run.

Cross country running is a sport where teams and individuals run on open-air courses over natural terrain such as dirt or grass.  The course is typically 2.5 to 7.5 miles (4–12 kilometers) long.  The course takes runners through the natural countryside, including woodlands, open areas, hills, flat ground, and sometimes a gravel road.  It is both an individual and a team sport.  Runners are judged on individual times and the teams by a points-scoring method.  Cross country events are held for both men and women of all ages and usually takes place during autumn and winter.  Inclement weather is seen as just another obstacle for running.  I have two nephews who enjoyed the sport in High School.

The lowest possible team score in a Cross-Country meet is 15 (1st through 5th).  The 6th and 7th place runners on the team act as pushers to raise the places of people behind them that are the top 5 for another team.  Since Yerington did not field a whole team, the school never won a meet even though Stevens took individual honors in them all.  Stevens pleaded his case to the school to be able to run as a one-person team, and Yerington supported him, asking the school board for special accommodations.  They agreed to let him run if his parents drove him to meets.  Various members of the school staff volunteered to sign him in at meets.  In addition to running, Stevens maintained a 4.0 GPA, was the junior class president, and worked nine-hour shifts four times a week at a local supermarket.  He always made time for his daily workouts.

Thoughts:  Stevens lives on a reservation in Yerington as a member of the Yerington Paiute.  Stevens said while running he often reflected on where he was and who he was running for and focused on the Yerington Paiute.  He understands his community has been oppressed and has seen Indigenous people wiped out over the last hundreds of years.  This is one of the motivations for why he runs.  Excelling at anything requires natural ability, but the real key is motivation.  As Thomas Edison said, “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.”  That is true for running, and it is true for overcoming the systemic injustice in our country.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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