Competing in sports at a Class-1A school offers the athlete three indisputable challenges: getting recognized by anybody, getting recognized by a college, and getting recognized by a Division I college. Before that last possibility occurs, Texas fans will host a benefit for BCS officials.
Bonnie Richardson of Rochelle found a way. She became a state gold medalist in the long jump as a sophomore. There was more gold in 2008, and this time she led the Lady Hornets to the state team championship—Richardson didn’t really require a loyal following—she WAS the team: one girl, one school crown, one-A.
It was a pretty good fit. On June 6 at Mike Myers Stadium on the UT campus, Rochelle won again, as Bonnie picked up 38 points to edge Cayuga by two. “I’m real happy it’s over,” the youngster told reporters after she ran the 200-meter dash—the last competitive event she’ll be in until she enrolls at Texas A&M in late summer. “It was pretty grueling; you have to focus on so much, and it takes a lot of time.”
For the record: Richardson won the high jump and long jump; she was second in the discus, third in the 200, and fourth in the 100-meter dash. Points awarded: 10-10-8-6-4=38. “She’s a phenomenal athlete,” head track coach Jym Dennis said. “Everything she does is great. Before last year, it wasn’t something you thought was possible.”
Dennis, who looks like he may have graduated a few months ago, knows something about the all-in-one, all-for-one personality. He coaches the six-man Hornets, and he coached Richardson—and, yes, wise guy, she had teammates—in basketball. (The 3A Llano girls, who won 21 games, had a tough time, for a while, beating Rochelle last November. The Jackets pulled away because Bonnie got into foul trouble.)
There were no fouls when she captured high-jump gold, June 5, at Mike Myers. It’s tough for a newspaper to describe a yell, but this one was a good one when Richardson cleared five feet, eight inches. She deserved the applause: only one girl, Brigetta Barrett of 5A Duncanville, had a better high jump (5’9") in the entire state meet.
“I don’t really care what happens in the higher classifications,” Bonnie insisted. “If I jump my best, I’m happy, and I don’t pay much attention to what others have done.”
Leanne Garcia of Bruni, near Laredo, paid attention to her gifted Rochelle foe in the long jump. “She is so determined; she’s not here to mess around,” runnerup Garcia observed. “Look at her, see how tough she is; she’s someone to look up to. She blew away the competition by herself last year.”
Richardson makes an admirable attempt to quiet the questions she has to face in the midst of a throng of reporters. “I’m not taking anything away from others who have won state for their school,” she notes, “but it’s not that big a deal. Every year is a new year, and I try to do my best one event at a time. Everyone congratulates you, because they think it’s a good thing, and that’s okay, but I really just like to run and jump and go home.”
Before going home, she did admit to not being real thrilled with her winning number in the long jump: 17 feet, four and a half inches. “I went farther as a sophomore—18 feet, 10 inches—and I wanted to break the record this year, but I guess I shouldn’t be too bummed out.”
“She really could be an arrogant person,” coach Dennis interjects, “but she is humble, quiet, and shy. She takes all this in stride. We have about 60 kids in the high school, and you couldn’t pick her out. Bonnie doesn’t flaunt what she’s done.”
One San Angelo reporter wouldn’t be surprised if she weren’t so humble. “Her story is like a Disney movie.” Well, if it’s Disney, maybe she should remain humble. “Now, it’s time to go to work,” Bonnie says. Work, as in making some money. “I sort of take a break from track in the summer.” And then it’s off to College Station.
Right now, it appears she will take on the heptathlon—the 100-meter hurdles, 200-meter dash, and 800-meter run; the high jump and long jump; and the shot put and javelin throw. (There are no javelin flights in Texas high school Track & Field.)
“Yes, I think it’ll be a bit daunting at first,” Richardson acknowledges. “I’ve watched college athletes, and I know how good and experienced they are. I’ve got a lot to learn; I’ll be the new kid on the block.” Graduations are called “Commencement Exercises,” because leaving school is the beginning of another stage of your life. There is no doubt Bonnie Richardson will face similar valleys and travel the same tough roads as many of her fellow graduates will.
Winning state for Rochelle doesn’t guarantee a painless future, but, for now, it should be enjoyed. Jym Dennis had a simple, but apt description: “It is a huge feat,” and Richardson, a symbol of modesty, even managed, “It shows how hard I’ve worked.”