Cypress Bay's Richie Bonilla, after steadily amassing impressive credentials in his three years as a Broward County distance standout, is ready to make his fourth 4A season a top-four charm. Bonilla, who ran personal bests in both the 1600 (4:25.71) and the 3200 (9:39.58) at the 4A State Championships in May to take 5th in both events, would like to see his Lightning move into Florida's top four on the turf this fall. Individually, he's eyeing a top-five finish.
Bonilla – who recently returned from two weeks of high-altitude training in Crested Butte and Aspen, Colorado, where he notes having racked up some "good mileage" – has been a factor on standout squads at both South Plantation, where Bonilla competed through the spring of his sophomore year, and CBHS. As a tenth-grader, he was 16th at the 4A Region 3 Meet, ending up as the third runner (behind the Calabro brothers, Brandon and Gary) on the winning Paladin squad. The next spring, Bonilla made a significant impact on the South Florida track scene, taking 3rd in both the 1600 (4:34) and the 3200 (9:52) at the Broward County Champs, 3rd again in the 1600 (to the same pair as in both County races, Jake Wilke of Taravella and Brandon Calabro) in the 4A District 11 Meet, and 4th in the 3200 in the 4A Region 3 Champs, emerging from the spring with a 9:44 personal best over the longer distance.
Bonilla then transferred to nearby Cypress Bay before his 11th-grade year, and his junior cross-country campaign was a study in rivalries old and new, shared and swapped. At the Broward County Championship, Bonilla took second behind Gary Calabro, with the pair cleanly separating themselves from the field, but Bonilla's Lighting came out on top, 51-75. Then, one week later at the 4A District 6 Meet, Bonilla bested both Calabros and everyone else by almost 200 meters, leading the Lightning to a 32-42 dogfight triumph over South Plantation in a race that saw 10 of the top 16 wearing the uniform of one of the two dominant teams. "It was awkward at first," says the soft-spoken Bonilla of seeing his former SPHS coaches while in a Lightning uniform, "but after that it was like any other race. By then I had already gotten established in Cypress Bay's program."
Outside the region, Bonilla was 11th at the FHSAA 4A State Finals, his 16:04 helping Cypress Bay to a 5th-place finish. He then capped his cross-country season in impressive fashion, traveling to the Footlocker South Regional and placing 58th in 15:56, good for 23rd among non-seniors and 7th among Floridians. Only Justin Harbor (Flagler Palm Coast) and James Osborn (Tampa Jesuit) finished higher among returning Sunshine Staters. Bonilla lists his double last spring on the track and his Footlocker race as the two highlights of his career so far.
Bonilla envisions himself as a 5K track runner in college and has been contacted by a number of SEC and Ivy League schools. But for now, considering his proven ability to rise to the occasion, what he does at his accustomed distances should be well worth watching.