Hopi distance star found his stride, Olympic glory

2011-08-14T00:00:00Z 2011-08-14T21:22:52Z Hopi distance star found his stride, Olympic glory Arizona Daily Star
August 14, 2011 12:00 am

In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star is featuring our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams. Throughout the summer, we have been showcasing our list - with the first 90 in no particular order.

Later this month, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

Louis Tewanima

As a kid on the Hopi Reservation in Northern Arizona, Louis Tewanima would sometimes run 50 miles to Winslow just to see a passing train.

Those 100-mile runs, back and forth, helped develop Tewanima into a runner of such prowess that he was ultimately sent to the famed Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. While there from 1907 to 1912, Tewanima became a track and field teammate of the great Jim Thorpe.

It didn't take long for Tewanima to establish his own reputation. He was ninth in the marathon at the 1908 London Olympics. By 1912, at the Stockholm Olympics, Tewanima won the silver medal in the 10,000 meters, establishing an American record that stood for 52 years. It was broken in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by another Native American, Billy Mills.

In 1912, the New York Times reported that Tewanima defeated national cross-country champion Fred Bellars in a five-mile match race and won by 200 yards at Motordrome Stadium in Newark, N. J.

After the Olympics and his New Jersey race, Tewanima returned to Arizona and his home, Second Mesa, an area of 26 1/2 square miles with a population of fewer than 1,000 people. He spent the rest of his life there, herding sheep, farming and teaching young Hopis about his love of running.

In 1954, Tewanima flew to New York City and was one of 22 honored by the Helms Foundation on its All-Time USA Track and Field Team.

He was photographed at the ceremony wearing native Hopi gear, including buckskin leggings and moccasins, and a headband.

While at the Manhattan banquet, Tewanima told Sports Illustrated his philosophy for aspiring distance runners was: "They should get up early, go to bed early and run all the time. They must eat good food and have clean thoughts."

Tewanima died in 1969 when, walking home from a church service, he stumbled and fell off a 70-foot cliff. To honor his memory, the Hopi nation holds the Louis Tewanima Memorial Footrace every Labor Day on Second Mesa.

Home; age

Second Mesa; died in 1969 at 82.

Notable

While at the Carlisle Indian School, Tewanima missed a train to a competition and ran 18 miles, arriving in time for the meet. He placed second in that day's two-mile race.

Greg Hansen

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