May 30, 2008

Maybe it was Whitesnake who said it best.

While not commonly considered a sports song, Here I Go Again, remains one of the biggest hits for the popular '80's hair band. It's also perfectly suited for Bonnie Richardson, the one-girl act who earned a team title.

Richardson, 17, is a Rochelle (Texas) student-athlete. On the Texas map, it barely registers a pinprick -- a sleepy town with no restaurants, no gas stations and no stop lights. Just a school, a post office and about 400 folks who are content with life on the farm.

It's not a place you'd expect to make a name in sports, given there are only 187 students in the K-12 school. Rochelle supports six varsity teams, and the girls' track squad is composed of Richardson plus two classmates. It's not "the lonely street of dreams," but the oval surrounding the football field is nothing more than pale dirt with intermittent patches of worn grass. Richardson was the school's only athlete to qualify for the class 1A finals.

So Richardson, wearing her HORNETS jersey, rolled into Austin and did pretty well. In fact, she won a title.

The team title.

As a one-girl demolition crew in 90-degree heat, Richardson collected points in each of her five events to become the second girl in Texas state history to single-handedly win a team title, the first since 1984. On the first of the competition's two days, Richardson won the high jump (5-foot-5), placed second in the long jump (18-7) and third in the discus (121 feet). On Day 2 she won the 200-meter dash in 25.03 seconds and finished second in the 100 at 12.19. She wasn't able to compete in a single relay, usually the difference-maker in team competition.

"Coach didn't tell me it was even remotely possible until after I was done and we were watching the relays," Richardson says. "It never even occurred to me. I was there by myself."

Only near the end of the meet, after she had finished her own events and sat in the stands watching the action with her coach, Jym Dennis, did Richardson became aware of what could be in store.

"After she finished, I knew she might be close," says Dennis, a social studies teacher who also coaches basketball and football. "You just hope she does good on her own, and if she wins it that's just icing on the cake."

After the relays, the result became official: Rochelle ("Bonnie") tallied 42 points, enough to squeak past second-place Chilton's 36. The scene at the medal podium was a little awkward for the runner-up.

"They were just like, 'Where's the first place team?'" says Richardson, who clocked personal bests in the 100 and 200. "She's standing right next to you."

For Richardson, life doesn't end at the track. She's also a forward on the basketball team and boasts a 4.025 GPA, something her mother, Madelynn, who is also the school's science teacher, is proud of.

"She actually got a B in my class," her mother says. "I had to ask her, 'What's the deal here?'"

Richardson admits that before the state meet she hadn't given much thought to a career, or even a college. "Everything is pretty much the same, I'm just getting more mail," she says. "Most of it is from colleges, but then there's some from people I don't even know."

In keeping with her usual routine, Richardson will spend much of her summer out on the track and in the gym. She'll probably tote along her iPod, which contains a lot of rock music. She might even listen to an old hit by a certain '80's metal band.

"I happened to just listen to that song the other day," Richardson says. "I was actually thinking, I guess it does kind of fit a little bit."

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