CROW AGENCY — Running isn’t just a hobby for Karis Brightwings-Pease and her family. Rather, it’s a way of life.
That’s evident when watching the Hardin 8th grader on the cross country course, where she’s one of the best in Montana. But just where did her passion for running get ignited?
“They'd come to practice in Lodge Grass when I was the coach," Tamara Brightwings-Pease, Karis' mother, told MTN Sports. "They got along with all the runners and so they would always take off running with them, and they started actually doing the practices on the side, and I think that’s when they showed interest in running cross country. Not just running cross country, but actually running.”
From joining cross country practices in Lodge Grass with her mother as a youngster, to competing in the Bighorn Trail run in Wyoming, running has always been a family affair. The trail running, though, started because of her father.
“It started because of an injury - ruptured achilles. Having your feet taken away, mentally it did something to me to make me realize how important our health is and where you need to be as a father to be able to provide," said Karis' father Timothy Brightwings-Pease.
“I just kind of wanted to do it because I saw him doing it. So then that kind of encouraged me that I could do something like that," Karis said.
Those 18-mile trail runs have made Karis exceptionally tough mentally. Running through all sorts of weather conditions and less stable ground makes the Cross Country season seem like a walk in the park.
“When I’m running on the course, I know I ran an 18, so it wouldn’t be anything to me," said Karis. "I ran on rocks and the golf course is just flat, so I kind of keep that in mind. It’s harder than the golf course, and that kind of motivates me and keeps me running.”
“Mentally, they came back down and they were running three miles on flat ground," Timothy said. Mentally they have an advantage saying, ‘I’ve run 18 miles in the mountains. Three miles on a golf course should be nothing.’”
There are times, though, that Karis has to dig down deep to pull out her best, such as when she won the 7-on-7 on up in Helena earlier this year against the state’s top runners. That’s just a glimpse into the competitiveness hiding beneath that smile.
“It’s something you can’t coach. You can’t coach it. It’s something that they have to have inside of them on their own and tap into it. She knows how to do it," said Tamara.
Her faith is also a strong factor when performing. Her mother made sure to immerse her children in their culture growing up.
“I usually ask God to keep me going. Ask for strength and ask him to stay by me and stuff. Then I just focus on trying to get done and getting a faster time than I did in the last race," Karis said.
“They take pride in it. They like to dance Crow style. They partake in Crow Fair. They do the parade dances. They like to take the sweat," said Tamara.
Family and faith have Hardin's star 8th grader on the cusp of winning a state championship.