BILLINGS--The NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships in Indiana kicked off May 24. It will mark the end of a historic career for Rocky's Sydney Little Light. Her career has inspired a new standard at Rocky, and inspired an entire community in her hometown.

Little Light is the most decorated track and field athlete in Rocky Mountain College history. Her success at the national level, however, didn't have the best start. 
"At my first ever 1500 national championship, the gun went off and I did not move," Little Light said. "For a solid second I was just standing there."
"It was an amazing start to the race I'll say, she knows now she can compete with any of them," Rocky head track and field coach Mike McLean said.
"I think what I learned from that experience is that once you qualify and you get there, you belong there," Little Light said.
Fast forward to May 2022, Little Light raced to the first ever collegiate national championship for a Battlin' Bear track and field athlete. She won the 1500 meter title with a personal best time of 4:25, breaking her own school record at the time.
Now, she's running that in 4:23.30. Another new record, and the fifth best mark in the nation.
"I often say I'm a dinosaur on the team," Little Light said. "I'm ready to go, I'm so tired. 
She's the only senior on the girls team, leading a group that's maybe the best the program has ever seen. Little Light recently was named Frontier Conference Athlete of the Week for the 28th time in her illustrious career. She's an All-American and she's set all kinds of records, paving the path for the next group of Battlin' Bears.
"I've just seen this team in so many different stages and just watched it grow, and I'm leaving with it being the toughest it's ever been so I'm excited to see where they go, and they have all this potential they don't even realize," Little Light said.
"If she's afraid she doesn't show it anymore, the kids see what she's capable of doing and we have other kids now that I'm looking forward to seeing them break her records," McLean said.
Little Light hasn't just inspired her teammates, she's ignited an entire community. One that stands behind her every time she laces up. The senior from Crow Agency, Montana is a role model to kids on the Crow reservation.
"I think when things get really hard, I think that little Crow girls looking up to me and even little boys," Little Light said. "I got this letter from my native coordinators from this boy at a native school that he wants to be the next great native runner like Sydney Little Light. That's something that keeps me motivated and focused."
She's often brought awareness to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons epidemic, a cause that's hit close to home too many times. Little Light wears a red hand, a symbol of the MMIP movement, at all of her big races.
"It's a lot of weight honestly," Little Light said. "Wearing the handprint was a lot of weight mentally, I knew it represents a lot of loss but also a lot of passion and resilience. Understanding where it comes from and that makes it easier to carry the weight of it." 
Little Light will tell you, just awareness isn't enough. Stopping an epidemic demands actual change and actual commitment. Little Light was originally a biology major at Rocky. A disdain for science and the disappearance and eventual death of Selena Not Afraid changed everything.
"Selena went missing I was a sophomore and I just realized I had a different passion," Little Light said.
This month, Little Light graduated with a degree in sociology at Rocky Mountain College. She hopes to become a homicide detective back home on the Crow Reservation.
"It's going to take people like me too, native women in that role of investigation and understanding that world view," Little Light said.
But first, there's a couple more races left in the home stretch of Little Light's legendary career, and a chance to defend her national title. 
"I don't know what I'm going to be thinking when that last 100m of my final 1500 comes up, I'm probably going to be thinking don't fall and run faster, but I'm just excited for it and I think it's going to be one of my best races yet." 
Little Light won the 1500m prelims Thursday, and will run in the finals Friday at 2:00pm EST. 

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