June 6, 2009

Teen wins team state title by herself - again

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Bonnie Richardson, from tiny Rochelle, Texas (population 600), has accomplished what no other Texas high school track and field athlete has ever achieved: back-to-back team state championships – by herself.

Richardson captured first in the long jump (17-04.50), second in the discus (126-09) and first in the high jump (5-8) on Friday for a total of 28 points. Returning to Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas on Saturday, Richardson placed third in the 200 (25.78) and fourth in the 100 (12.51) for a two-day total of 38 points – two points better than second-place Cayuga in Class A.

In her typical laid-back fashion, Richardson didn't get too excited.

"My family already did the math," Richardson said while waiting for her celebratory prime rib sandwich at Red Robin restaurant. "They were jumping up and down; it was kind of embarrassing."

Since Rochelle High School has no track, Richardson – this year's entire girls' track team – practices at nearby Brady High School, where there are gas stations and a Wal-Mart.

"Brady's going to town," she said.

For the second consecutive year, Richardson went to town on the competition. She said her performance last year was "a little better, but I high jumped better this year and threw the disc better. I can't be too disappointed."

News of Richardson's feat spread last year as she dominated the University Interscholastic League State Championships. Now she's the first to do it twice.

How does she feel?

"I'm tired and glad it's over," Richardson said. "High school's officially over."

The valedictorian in a class of 14 at Brady High School, Richardson has committed to Texas A&M.

"I hope not to look stupid because of the age difference with some of the athletes I'll be competing against," Richardson said. "I'm playing catch-up."

At the start of her junior year, Richardson had decided on academic pursuits in lieu of athletic dreams.

"Then I started winning and people started calling," she said. "I changed my mind because the coaches gave me confidence."

After two state titles, Richardson does have one regret.

"I wish I hadn't stuck with the same five events, that I had branched out more," she said. "I would've [liked to] have vaulted, but we don't have the money or interest in Rochelle to have a pit. I've never done hurdles, and I want to."

Richardson has lived in Rochelle her whole life and loves fishing and hunting "anything that moves." And although she won't compete in track over the summer, she will work on a local ranch taking care of livestock.

In a true out-of-nowhere existence over the past 12 months, Richardson speaks with the affable charm representative of small-town America still untouched by the plethora of chains and urban development. And even though she claims, "Track and field is a dying sport in Rochelle," Richardson's remarkable achievement has breathed a momentary surge of life into an otherwise quiet Texas town.

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