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Stride, Soar, SucceedMaryalice Yakutchik

Stride Soar Succeed (continued)

RUNNING INTO JERROD

Sunday, June 2 / Day 1

Hundreds of kids are packed onto the bleachers in the Pit, fanning themselves throughout the sweltering welcoming ceremony. Lenes Hopkins-Chery notices someone pointing at him. He can’t quite make out the face, but senses a familiar energy—a memorable presence—and suddenly recognizes exactly who it is: “Oh yeah! That’s Jerrod!”Two years ago at NativeVision, Hopkins-Chery first noticed Jerrod Noble, a 15-year-old Navajo who, given a couple years of maturation and training, would be a valuable asset to any university track team.

“His strides,” Hopkins-Chery recalls, “were amazing … I mean, just smooth.” 

A straight-A student athlete, Jerrod stood out not only for his natural sprinting ability but also for the intelligent questions he asked about track and field, a sport largely foreign to him. All he knew about running was that he was good at it—as in, always the fastest kid at school. Golf was his main sport, however. His grandfather had taught him that. Jerrod also played basketball, mainly because everyone else did; his own mother had been a hoops standout when she was a student. 

“Play golf,” conceded Hopkins-Chery,  a former runner for Park University in Parkville, Missouri, and now a manager for an international trading company. “But you should be running as well.”

Hopkins-Chery no sooner arrived back home in Kansas City after NativeVision 2011 when Jerrod texted him: “Hey Coach, what do I do to get better?” 

Hopkins-Chery sent him weight-training workouts that featured lots of reps, especially leg curls.

“I didn’t know then that hamstrings were important for sprinting,” Jerrod says. 

The coach advised him about diet, suggesting he drink potassium-rich coconut water to help him recover quicker after a run in the desert heat.

“He told me to work out in the mornings,” Jerrod says, “which, you know, it was just awful for me to get up. He told me to take a morning jog, and during it, to enjoy nature, and my whole town; to just enjoy living.”

A sunrise run, Hopkins-Chery persuaded Jerrod, should be nothing short of sacred; a teaching wholly aligned with traditional Native American culture. 

“The spiritual part,” the coach explained, “is that with every step that you take, you’re breathing in what the earth has given you, and then releasing positive energy back to the earth.”

Blessings come back three-fold to those who respect the world around them, according to Hopkins-Chery. He revealed to Jerrod that while running, he intentionally breathes for somebody who struggles to breathe naturally: someone using an oxygen tank or confined to bed. He admitted that early in his career, he ran for himself; to better his own times. Then, when his mother became sick, he began to understand how he could bless somebody else when he ran: “I ran for my mom every day,” he told Jerrod. “I ran hard. I ran strong. I ran until I was exhausted.”

He ran until he had no breath left. Then, he logged another five miles. His mother’s health improved. “And I thought, ‘Mom, you just don’t know… I just ran 20 miles for you today! I ran for you because you aren’t able to do it,’” Hopkins-Chery said. 

Jerrod is a quick and eager learner. Hopkins-Chery notices that this year he looks more relaxed when he runs; like he’s running for something beyond himself.

“I want to give back to my community,” Jerrod confirms. “I want to make them proud about what I do, how hard I want to work for them.” 

As much as Hopkins-Chery hopes Jerrod might head to Park University and run for his alma mater, he holds another dream even dearer: “I told Jerrod yesterday that I cannot wait for his first year of college to be over; then he’s going to come back [to NativeVision] and be a coach. It’s going to be amazing.”

“I want to give back to my community. I want to make them proud about what I do, how hard I want to work for them." —Jerrod Noble, with Lenes Hopkins-Chery 

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