KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - It has been a busy few months for one Native cross-country athlete. After finishing her first season as head coach of the men and women's cross-country team at United Tribes Technical College (Vol. 23, Iss. 14), Becki Wells picked up and moved out to Knoxville, Tenn. to focus on something only few athletes have the opportunity to even dream of, training for the Olympic trials. Wells, a member of the Blood Tribe, is a high school and collegiate state champion in track and field and cross country events and is currently training for the 2004 trials that will be held in July in Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento, the hometown of Native Olympic champion, Billy Mills, also held the 2000 trials. Wells qualified for the 2000 trials in the 800 meters and 1,500 meter events. This time around, Wells is focusing on the 1,500 meters and looking into running a new event, the Steeplechase. The Steeplechase is a run just under two miles over barriers, like hurdles complete with a water jump. This 2000 exhibition event has been added to the trials this year.
Currently, Wells is not sponsored for the 2004 events. In the past, she was sponsored by corporate giant Reebok and the Native American Sports Council. In the world of sponsorship, large corporate sponsorship ranges from free equipment to monthly income to payment for wearing their product. According to Wells, "To get corporate sponsors, you have to run national ranking times, and show that you have the capabilities to be in the top five of your event ? My last sponsorship was around 30K per year, and that was a solid sponsorship."
Training for the Olympics is a full-time job. "My coach believes that work is the biggest thing that runs athletes out of the sport. It is difficult to spend time working, 40 [or more] hours a week, and get 70-80 miles a week in plus weight training and everything else. Running at this level can be consuming, and if you are doing it right, one track session can take up to 3-4 hours of your time," Wells said.
She continued, "When I was sponsored in 2000, I had no worries, I was able to live, train and pay all my bills, without one worry." Once the season concluded at UTTC, Wells has made training a top priority. She continues to work part-time; however, running and preparation have become her main focus.
Wells trains with J.J. Wells, head coach for the University of Tennessee women's cross country team. "Training is going well," Wells said, "I have always had success with coach Clark, who has trained many Olympic athletes ? it is good to be surrounded with people to run with (including the University of Tennessee women's track team, Hazel Clark, 2000 Olympian in the 800 meters and Jerl Miles Clark, a 2000 Olympian in the 800 meters)."
Wells is aware of her talent and the opportunity she has been given. She added "I feel I am incredibly blessed with an ability to run, and that it has the chance to change lives if brought to fruitation."
She is also conscious of the impact she could have on history as a Native Olympian. "I admire Billy Mills, but I think it's time we have another Native athlete representing the U.S., I want to be a factor at the trials, I want kids to have that person that they can talk about again ? There is so much untapped potential on the reserve; I want to be one to bring our young people hope."
Sponsorship is still an underlying issue and Wells knows it. "If I could have my basic expenses covered, it would give me the opportunity to focus completely on my running and making the 2004 team. Anyone who chooses to sponsor me at this point in my life is going to be part of making history because with or without a sponsor I know God will help me make it, of course it would be easier with support as is anything in life."
Wells can be reached by mail at 1030 Woodview Dr. #1030, Knoxville, TN 37909, by telephone at (865) 691-4099 or via e-mail: BeckiMWells@Yahoo.com.