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For 27-Time Hopi High Cross-Country Champs, Running Is Tradition

Rick Baker runs the cross-country program at Arizona’s Hopi High School, and he is one of the most successful coaches in sports—period. His runners have won 27 consecutive state cross-country titles in a row. Winning is great, of course—it’s a source of pride for Baker, his runners and the Hopi community. But he has a bigger mission: keeping running alive and making sure every generation is aware of its significance to the Hopi tribe. Running isn’t simply a sport for the Hopi people. It’s a tradition with deep spiritual purpose. For centuries, Hopi runners carried messages to distant villages, and they ran to springs to deliver prayers to bring rain. The young athletes Baker coaches run on the very same dusty trails their ancestors blazed in northeastern Arizona. Baker ensures his runners are aware of their history, and he encourages them to embrace their brotherhood. That’s the kind of leadership every team needs.

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