From New Mexico to Springbrook, he runs for his Native heritage

In Gallup, N.M., it rarely rains. So when booming thunder jolted Uriah Augare-Deal from his sleep on a chilly December night, he knew something was wrong.

The Springbrook High cross-country and track athlete was back home to see his ailing nali, his grandmother. The firewood stove crackled to keep the home warm, and Augare-Deal had been anxious to close his eyes at first but eventually was lulled to sleep by the soft music in his AirPods.

When his father walked through the door into the living room with the bad news, the 6-foot-5 boy crumpled and sobbed. Augare-Deal would be without his anchor. Nali had died.

All he could think was, “This is all my fault.” Augare-Deal’s grandmother had taken care of him during his parents’ divorce. Right when Nali was diagnosed with cancer, Augare-Deal moved away.

Augare-Deal left behind everything he ever knew, including his beloved grandmother.

Soon, his deep-rooted love for running would help him overcome his struggles and recognize his new home in Maryland.

Raised in Gallup, Augare-Deal and his older brother, Kendon, began running as soon as their legs could carry them. With two intercollegiate athletes as parents, the brothers swiftly gained recognition as emerging sports stars in their community.

With limited resources, the school Augare-Deal attended until the seventh grade did not have the funds for an established track or cross-country team, much less sufficient training equipment.

Still, Augare-Deal had people who understood his ethnicity and culture. He felt at home, given his high school’s majority Native American population. (Augare-Deal associates with the Navajo Nation and the Amskapi Piikani from the Blackfoot Confederacy.)

When his mother informed him of their impending move to unfamiliar Rockville in 2021 to support her new job in the government, Augare-Deal felt a profound sense of loss.

“I grew so attached to Gallup, it was like I left a part of me back home,” he said.

At Springbrook, the brothers would have athletics to fall back on. Both are tall, with legs that are disproportionately long to their torsos, known as runner’s legs.

Before they even enrolled in classes at their new high school, Springbrook cross-country coach Gary Frace heard he would have two new talented athletes entering the fold.

Frace likened their acclimation to the team to a knife going through hot butter. However, his perspective was confined to their interactions during practice; he never observed them during the school day.

“They would come home, and I can recall just them saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, Mom, there are no Natives, and it’s only us,’ ” said their mother, Rael.

Rael was intentional in her selection of the boys’ high school. A strong athletic department, exceptional academics and a diverse student body were high on the mother’s list. Springbrook checked all the boxes.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the minority population at Springbrook is 94 percent. In fact, Frace compared his team to the United Nations. Soon enough, Uriah began to fit in.

Still, his time at Springbrook has consisted of challenges.

In class, a teacher discussed the change of the Washington NFL team’s name from Redskins. The class was having a debate about the merits of the name when a classmate asked Augare-Deal what he thought about it. Augare-Deal tried to explain it in the simplest way possible: He said being called that slur felt the same to him as how he would imagine a Black student feeling if a White student called him or her a slur.

“I’m pretty sure they never saw a Native American before me and Kendon,” Augare-Deal said.

Additionally, he felt the tug of the ties of his previous home. Before his family moved to Maryland, Augare-Deal’s grandmother urged them not to leave her. As a consolation, Augare-Deal promised to keep in touch with her frequently. He felt he failed to keep that promise. Then he lost her.

Struggling with his mental health following her death, Augare-Deal did not want to return to Maryland. But after confiding in close family members about his emotions, the then-sophomore turned to the one constant in his life: running.

“I would just run, and that’s when I feel like everything fades away for me,” Augare-Deal said. “It’s just me, myself and my music. Everything disappears when I’m running.”

This therapeutic approach led to him becoming one of Springbrook’s top runners. In November, Augare-Deal finished with a personal-record time of 17:36 at the Montgomery County cross-country championships. At the Maryland 3A West region track and field championships in the spring, he placed fourth in the high jump.

When the brothers embarked on their runs, Rael would attach eagle feathers to the back of their jerseys. These feathers held significance as symbols of strength and protection. At state meets, fellow athletes would gaze at them, to the extent that Augare-Deal would occasionally check his back to ensure nothing was amiss.

At first, the glances concerned the runner. Now Augare-Deal hopes his feathers are seen by runners at every meet he runs, fading into the distance as his long legs carry him home.

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