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September 28, 2009
At age 17 Bonnie Richardson won the Texas state track team championship all by herself. Then she did it again
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September 28, 2009

The Power Of One

At age 17 Bonnie Richardson won the Texas state track team championship all by herself. Then she did it again

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But now, unbeknownst to her, the Beast is about to sweep her away from the herd forever. She wobbles briefly coming out of the blocks in the 200, finds her stride and accelerates. "C'monBonnieC'monBonnieC'monBonnie," urges her father. Heavenly days!—that's Dad's favorite expression—she just ran the 200 in 25.03, nearly a second faster than she has in her life! "Forty-two points!" Jack crows, still no idea what that might mean.

Coach Dennis redials his wife. Only one other person in the 105-year history of Rochelle High has won a state title in anything—Willie Myers, in the mile in 1956—and now Coach Dennis is almost sure that his girl has just won a state team championship. But he can't utter a peep till he's certain. The only event left to worry about is the 1,600-meter relay, because relays are worth double the points of the individual events, awarding 20 to the winner, but no school, his wife assures him, is within 20 points of Bonnie.

"When're we leaving?" Bonnie presses. She's got no clue. All her friends and relatives, except for Lee, Mom and Dad, have hit the road. She's weary, starving, and all she wants is to return to the dirt road she lives on—slowing down just enough not to raise a plume of dust that'll rankle Miz Beam, her teacher for seven years and her nearest neighbor—and catch sight of the family's three grazing horses and the corrugated metal ranch house that the Richardsons admit could double for a barn, scratch the belly of her chocolate lab and hunting partner, Skeeter, then shower off and sink into the sofa....

"We're just going to wait a little longer," says Coach Dennis. He knows she'll hate the hoo-ha that's about to occur. "We're waiting for something," he waffles.

"C'mon, I want to go," she insists.

"You're doing pretty well in the team standings," he soft-soaps. "We need to hang around a little longer."

"Funny, funny, ha. Whatever." She has watched other schools arrive with two busloads of athletes. She has never, as a member of a track squad of three, even considered track a team sport.

"Rochelle, Seymour and Chilton, please report to the award stand!" the P.A. man booms after the 1,600-meter relay. Coach Dennis can't help himself: He laughs.

"What?" she demands.

"I think you just won the whole meet."

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