ROCKY BOY'S — Odds were against Billy Mills in life and as an athlete. Both his mother and father died when he was a young boy. Doubt set in when he was young. The only escape from the world around him was long distance running. Yet, the young prodigy didn’t make his high school cross country team. More doubt set in.
He trained hard. Winning almost 90% of his races in high school, earning a scholarship to University of Kansas, where he was a seven time All-American. Doubt continued to set in.
It wasn’t until the latter half of his college career when the doubt was too overwhelming. The thought of living was an afterthought. He stepped out onto a ledge outside of a hotel window, contemplating whether to jump, a voice that sounded like his fathers cried out to him.
Mills stepped off the ledge.
The voice that saved his life led to the biggest success of his career.
“I got off the ledge… I dreamed I would win a gold medal, Olympic 10,000-meter champion.”
He did just that three years later in 1964. The USA Track & Field website says of his Olympics win: "Described as the greatest upset in Olympic history, Billy Mills' victory in the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Olympic Games will remain an indelible memory for anyone who saw his thrilling stretch run as he wove through a field of lapped runners and finally passed the race favorites, Ron Clarke and Mohamed Gammoudi."
Billy Mills is making a tour through reservation schools in Central Montana over the next two days.
Day one began in the Rocky Boy's Schools and Stone Child College. Day two consists of Havre High School and Box Elder Schools.
Mills had insight to share on the adversity he faced in his life, while recapping his greatest achievement.
Life on the reservation poses challenges, those off, may not understand.
“Look at the devastation meth has had in our community. That was planned. Don’t fall prey to it. Take the culture, the traditions, the spirituality, the virtues, and values that empower us; and let us do our part in making the United States of America a great country.”
For Billy Mills, having a goal was the ticket he needed to reach the top. That was the message he had for students at Rocky Boy. Guy Small, a Junior Volleyball player at Rocky Boy High School, she holds her dream nearby.
“I want to play U.S. Volleyball.” She shared.
Reflecting on Mills seminar she added, “Being indigenous it’s not easy getting places, … like a girl from Havre.”
Principal John Harkins understands that having a role model that can relate to the Rocky Boy students is crucial to them gaining something from the assembly.
“It’s important to have somebody that they can relate to, who’s been through similar topics and has not only overcome and just been successful in life, but has overcome to that level of success where he’s a world champion."
He continued, "It’s something that we’re going to tie back to throughout the year to somebody they can look up to and remind them of as the adversity, and just having the overall strength within themselves to achieve what they need to in school and afterwards.”
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