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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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DISCUS NEXT. The Tylenol's not working. Her head's banging. Now she'll need every scrap of the stubbornness and single-mindedness that sent her up that oak tree every Sunday evening for two autumns to sit in camouflage clothing with her bow and arrow for hours awaiting that one clean shot at that one eight-point buck she'd targeted on a ranch that Dad managed. Nope, not any of the other white-tailed deer that came within kill range; only him. Nope, not with a gun; too easy. "I started this with a bow, and I'll finish it with a bow," she vowed, insulted when her father offered her the rifle. And she did finish it, last October, piercing both lungs with one arrow; the buck's head is stuffed and mounted on the Richardsons' living-room wall, her graduation gift.

She moves into first in the discus on her fifth throw and extends her lead on her last attempt with a heave of 127'3", two inches off her best. But Tara Riley of Quanah High surpasses her by nearly a foot on her last throw, leaving Bonnie with silver ... 18 team points ... and two sisters begging for just one photograph on a medal stand in which she doesn't look like a convict.

I understand you cannot achieve all of your desires

TWO GIRLS left in the high jump. Same two as last year: Bonnie and Cayuga's Jamie Hope. Jamie clears her first try when the bar reaches 5'6". Bonnie misses. Pitiful! She jumped 5'10" two months ago. The anvil moves from her back to her chest.

She clears 5'6" on her second go, but Jamie immediately leaps 5'7". Bonnie misses once, her liftoff too close to the bar. She misses twice. Pathetic!

One more chance. She's taking forever between jumps. She walks over to her coach, her top lip trembling, her voice shaking; he's never seen her like this. "Get your speed up, get some air, and then just hold your form a split second longer," he says softly.

Bonnie's family and friends are gagging on the tension. Even Jamie, knowing what's at stake for Bonnie, can't watch her jump. "I hope she clears it," she murmurs as she turns away. At last Bonnie takes off and seems to clear the bar but clips it on the descent and lands on her back, frozen, watching the bar bobble ... and stay!

It's raised to 5'8". Pressure's still on Bonnie because if neither girl can clear the bar, Jamie wins on fewer misses. They both fail twice. It's 8:05 p.m. Bonnie's fried. It has been an hour and a half since the event began, 7½ hours since her first event, 9½ since she walked on the track. Jamie misses her final attempt, but it's still Bonnie's back against the wall. For once she doesn't lie down and cover her eyes. She sits on a bench, forearms propped on her knees, and stares at the ground longer than her loved ones can bear.

At last she rises, moves her mark a foot closer and stares for another eternity at the bar. Cayuga's a threat to win the title; a four-point swing hinges on this jump. She lopes toward the bar, launches, flinches as her rump strikes it yet again, glimpses it bouncing, lands knowing that it's coming off, then hears her friends and family shriek—what? ... it didn't???!!! She flings up both fists, swoons onto her back, clasps her head, the most emotion she has ever displayed on a track, the most pride she has ever felt. Then she returns to her hotel room and begins dreading tomorrow.

I say it is the people around you who hold you back and not yourself

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