2024 Wings National Team

For the 35th time since 1988, Wings of America sponsored a team of the fastest Native American runners ages 14-19 to compete at the USA Cross Country Championships. Eight young men and eight young women represented the organization in the “junior” age division races on January 20, 2024 in Richmond, VA at Pole Green Park. They embraced the unique opportunity to race the NCAA regular-season cross country distance (Women 6KM, Men 8KM), as well as line up with numerous college freshman.

2024 Wings National Team:

Back Row L-R: Kale Loretto, Janessa Segay, Destiny Chino, Nicole Pierce, Maleah Lalio, Stella Hall, Catherine Denetclaw, Maddie Castillo, Dathan Esson.

Front Row L-R: Ryan Kee, Theodore RoundFace, Alexander Pebeahsy, Lucas Williams, Bearren Kee, Symond Martin.

Both the men’s and women’s teams ran together and performed admirably at the meet. No Wings runner was able to hang with the lead packs vying for spots on Junior Team USA, however. The temperatures on race day hovered just above freezing and there was a stiff wind. Two Wings runners, Maleah Lalio (Zuni) and Janessa Segay (Navajo), were disqualified for running around a log barrier that was placed on the course overnight, after the course preview. Although there was a large group of women that avoided the barrier together on their first lap, the official only recorded four numbers for disqualification. Wings protested the decision, stating it was unclear that the logs were a required element of the course- but the protest was overruled and the disqualifications were upheld.

In the men’s race, the Wings runners from New Mexico captured the organization’s 34th “Team Title”. It should be noted that team scores are only counted when Wings has enough National Team Members from the same USATF association (state) to score as a team. We are proud of these young runners for representing their Tribes and communities proudly.

Results for the Junior Women’s Race

Results for the Junior Men’s Race

Wings National Team Winter Training Camp

In addition to traveling with Wings to Richmond, VA, National Team Members are invited to a three-day training camp hosted in Albuquerque, NM between Christmas and New Years. Apart from providing additional motivation and knowledge to train for Nationals, this camp provides an opportunity for Team Members to get to know one another before their travels.

This year, the men’s Team bunked in the Wings headquarters, while the women stayed nearby in an AirBnB. Although a few Team Members were unable to make the camp, those that did were rewarded with training partners and good laughs with new friends. In addition to daily workout and strengthening routines, Team Members heard from former Wings standouts about their experience running for the organization and beyond.

Winter camp training attendees in the foothills above Wings HQ

Selection Process

Runners were selected for the team based on their performance at post-season championship races, including Nike Cross Regionals, Footlocker Cross Country Regionals and Garmin Running Lane. After an open registration period through which 74 runners identified themselves as eligible for selection, those with the 8 fastest regional qualifying times, men and women, were invited to be a part of the Wings National Team. The list of all 49 runners that eventually ran qualifying times can be found below the selected runners table.


Name/GradeTribal Affiliation(s)Seed Time(s)Qualifying Race(s)School/Town
Karis Brightwings-Pease**/9thCrow18:46NXR NorthwestHardin MS, Hardin, MT
Madeline Castillo*/12thPueblo of Acoma18:59/19:09NXR SW/Garmin Running LaneAlamosa HS, Alamosa, CO
Stella Hall*/11thHopi19:20NXR SWHighland HS, Gilbert, AZ
Taylor Biggambler**/10thDiné19:21NXR SWFlag HS, Flagstaff, AZ
Maleah Lailo/11thPueblo of Zuni19:21NXR SWZuni HS, Zuni, NM
Nicole Pierce/12thDiné19:24NXR SWPiedra Vista HS, Farmington, NM
Damira Allen***/10thDiné19:27NXR SWGanado HS, Ganado, AZ
Janessa Segay*/11thDiné19:31/19:59NXR SW/Garmin Running LaneChinle HS, Chinle, AZ
Lorianna Piestewa**/12thHopi/Diné20:09NXR SWMiyamura HS, Gallup, NM
Destiny Chino*/11thPueblo of Acoma20:22NXR SWSanta Fe Indian School, Santa Fe, NM
Catherine Denetclaw/9thDiné20:46NXR SWTohatchi HS, Tohatchi, NM
Symond Martin/10thDiné16:02NXR SWPage HS, Page, AZ
Lucas Williams*/11thTohono O’odham/Diné16:05NXR SWLaguna-Acoma HS, Laguna, NM
Briley Dauphinais/12thDiné/Spirit Lake Nation16:10NXR SWTohatchi HS, Tohatchi, NM
Dathan Esson*/11thDiné16:15/16:40NXR SW/Footlocker WestKirtland Central HS, Kirtland, NM
Bearren Kee/10thDiné16:35/16:53NXR Sw/Garmin Running LaneWindow Rock HS, Ft. Defiance, AZ
Theodore RoundFace*/12thNavajo/Crow/Lakota16:54/17:59NXR SW/Footlocker WestGallup HS, Gallup, NM
Kale Loretto/9thJemez Pueblo17:00NXR SWSanta Fe Indian School, Santa Fe, NM
Alexander Pebeahsy/12thComanche/Apache/Wichita/Yankton Sioux17:01NXR SWAnadarko HS, Anadarko, OK
*Runners that have made a previous Wings National Team
**Selected for National Team, but declined spot due to other commitments
***Selected for National Team, but did not ultimately compete due to illness

NOTE: Three runners selected for the 2024 National Team; Maddie Castillo, Symond Martin, Theo RoundFace, are children of runners that have made previous Wings National Teams. We are especially proud that our program is now fostering the ambitions of multiple generations of Native runners!

List of all runners that ran a qualifying time:

Qualifying Race Registration & Lodging Assistance

Wings provided dozens of deserving student-athletes with travel and race registration assistance to attend their regional qualifying race. This year Wings staff and student-athletes traveled to Nike Cross Southwest Regional in Mesa, AZ. Dozens of others made the trip with their families, with race registration and lodging covered by the Wings organization.

Runners from many different Tribes and high schools gathered at a Team dinner hosted by Wings the night before the NXR SW race in Mesa, AZ. Here, runners pose with the jerseys provided t them by Wings.

To receive Regional race assistance, runners had to meet the following standards:

  • Finish at or below the qualifying time in at least one (5K) race during the 2023 high school cross country season.
    • Boys: 17:40 
    • Girls: 21:30
  • Complete the 2024 Wings National Team Application.
  • Submit a grade check form and class schedule.
    • C average or better in each class.
  • Provide proof of affiliation in a state or federally recognized tribal nation (United States only).

The Wings National Team opportunity was created to showcase the talents of Native American youth and provide exposure to higher levels of competition in the company of runners from different tribes. Many program alumni have earned the attention of college coaches and/or a spot on a junior national team competing for “Team USA” internationally. Wings National Teams have captured 34 national titles since their debut in 1988.

Questions? Contact Mariah Gachupin, Program Director

Ph: (505) 521-9799 Email: mariah@wingsofamerica.org

Special Thanks:

Wings would like to recognize the Padma Family Foundation for making a $5,000 contribution two years running to help the organization cover travel and race registration costs for Native runners and their families attempting to make the Wings National Team. Thank you Padma! We look forward to many more miles together!

Wings runners and some of their family members gathered with a Padma Family Foundation representative at the NXR SW regional race on 11/18/23.