The last time Nastacia Crowe-Missens participated in the Saskatchewan First Nations Summer games, she won a first place title in her age category’s 150 metre sprint. She hopes to snag a similar accomplishment again this year.

“You may not always win, but you’re having fun. You’re getting out there and not being at home all day,” said Crowe-Missens.

While the fourteen-year-old she enjoys the competitive atmosphere, Crowe-Missens said the games motivate her to be a better version of herself.

“I'm way more athletic, healthier from training (and) coming to this,” said Crowe-Missens. “Just to have these events where First Nations kids and youth can come and participate, and get away from the drugs and the violence in their house, and just come here, have fun, meet friends and do their best.”

With 3,500 athletes from 74 Saskatchewan First Nations, coach Ken Thomas believes the games are about encouraging more indigenous youth to get involved in athletics.

“These are tomorrow's leaders and we need to assure them, get the organization going, get (more) awareness and get more athletes out here,” said Thomas.

Thomas said participating in sports can improve young people’s mental health.

“I want to emphasize athletics and running to bring down the suicide rate, the crime rate,” said Thomas. “Let’s focus on the youth, get the kids going…and spread that message.”

The games run until Friday.