Cody cross country star Riley Smith said it was the best prize she has ever won in a running competition.
Not that she minds collecting trophies, medals and ribbons, but she has a new favorite after capturing the girls race in the Chief Nation Invitational in Ethete on Saturday.
First prize for the top girls and boys were pairs of hand-made moccasins. Smith finished the somewhat hilly 5-kilometer course in 19 minutes, 10 seconds, in 90-degree temperatures.
“They are very gorgeous,” Smith said of her new footwear. “The beading is amazing.”
The race, hosted by Wyoming Indian High School, also had a very special prize for the team champion – a teepee.
“It was a neat event,” Cody coach Maggie Kirkham said. “It was a very cultural event.”
The girls bested five other schools with 16 points (only four runners scored instead of the usual five because Wyoming Indian is class 2A). The boys placed second to Lander with 38 points, but the Fillies’ and Broncs’ combined scores were just short of Lander’s total.
“We wanted the teepee bad,” said Emmy Bower, who placed fifth in the girls race.
Senior Owen Preston was the top Cody boys finisher in second-place with his 17:31 time. He went out a bit slow and then caught all but one of the leaders with a sprint.
Wyoming Indian turned the meet into more than a run, not only with the special prizes, but with the atmosphere surrounding the competition.
Tribal drum music was played and after the races the runners were served a potlach lunch featuring fry bread, chokecherry gravy and various meats.
“They were very hospitable,” said Wyatt Becker, who was Cody’s second boys finisher in 10th place. “It was definitely very much different (than most meets).”
Smith was followed by senior teammate Baylee Stafford in second place, Bower, and the fourth scorer Ashton Powell in eighth.
Freshman Ava Stafford, Baylee’s sister, who has just recovered from pneumonia, was ill during the race but still placed 15th.
Senior Rachel Sanchez also felt sick during the run, but Kirkham blamed it on allergies more than intense temperatures.
Being hot was the No. 1 obstacle Cody runners spoke about.
“The heat was really bad,” Becker said. “With my diabetes, my blood sugar tends to drop when it’s really hot.”
He imbibed Coca-Cola at the start and during the race to stay fresh.
A large chunk of the course was in a field that was completely exposed to the sun – and to grasshoppers jumping around, though they did not get in the way.
“It was a little bit too hot,” Bower said.
Kirkham, who is Smith’s mother, said they were told the moccasins were not merely for show, to be placed on a shelf with other awards.
“They were very adamant,” Kirkham said. “They said, ‘We want you to wear them.’”
Until that comment, Smith was much inclined never to do so, to put the moccasins in a place of honor among her other awards.
The emphasis from Wyoming Indian officials was on showing them off, especially on Nov. 15. There is a worldwide celebration of indigenous roots that day called “Rock Your Mocs.”
“I think I will be wearing them Nov. 15,” Smith said.
Teams: 1) Cody, 16; 2) Lander, 20; 3) Wyoming Indian, 57; 4) Lodge Grass, 84; 5) Riverton, 89: 6) Tongue River, 106.
Individuals: 1) Riley Smith, 19:10; 2) Baylee Stafford, 20:32; 5) Emmy Bower, 21:26; 8) Ashton Powell, 21:53; 15) Ava Stafford, 23:26.
Teams: 1) Lander, 14; Cody 38; 3) Tongue River, 44; 4) Riverton, 75; 5) Lodge Grass, 89; 6) Wyoming Indian, 110; 7) Little Wound, 113.
Individuals: 2) Owen Preston, 17:31; 10) Wyatt Becker, 18:43; 11) David Juergens, 18:43; 18) Braydon Bond, 19:33; 33) Kyle Graham, 20:56; 34) Riley Nielsen, 21:03.