Running legend Billy Mills visits MVHS

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Christopher Song

Olympic gold medalist talks to students about his career

Billy Mills speaks to Cross Country
Billy Mills speaks to the cross country team after school on Sept. 26. Mills spoke to the cross country team about his childhood and his career. Photo by Christopher Song.

Usually, the cross country team meets on the bleachers by the football field, but on Sept. 26, the team found itself seated in the auditorium instead. They were there to listen to a speech by one of sport’s greatest legends, Billy Mills, an American gold medalist in the 10,000-meter run in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. His talk centered on the idea of perception and the importance of chasing after dreams.

Flatow invited Mills to talk to the team about his Olympic victory because of Mills’ unique upbringing and the battles Mills faced to get there. In the past, Flatow has also invited Josh Cox, an American 50K record holder, and Erica Ashley McClain, a gold medalist for the triple jump in the Beijing Olympics, to speak to MVHS cross country runners. Mills spoke to the team not only about his career in cross country but also about significant events that taught him important life lessons.

“Perceptions can create or destroy you,” Mills said. He mentioned the lessons on perception that he learned when he was running with an actor that played Mills in the movie “Running Brave.”

Mills also spoke about the difficulties he faced as a child raised in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the nation. Having been orphaned at the age of 12, Mills described his life as dysfunctional. These childhood tragedies remained with him all the way to his Olympic run.

“All I truly wanted to do was heal a broken soul, and I was told it was the pursuit of a dream that can heal it,” Mills said about his motivations for running in the 1964 Olympics.

Mills’ message about pursuing dreams was well received by the cross country team.

“I think the entire team learned something from today,” senior Sujay Tadwalkar said. Many runners on the team have been inspired by Mills to take cross country more seriously.

“I learned that I should always keep trying, even after failure,” senior David Chang said about Mills’ segment on pursuing dreams.