BY DAVE RICCI firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Bella Bona can't help but smile when her teammates hug her and call her “Baby Bell.”
One of the youngest members of the Kenmore East track and field team, Bona, a seventh grader, has quickly won over her teammates who all think of her as a baby sister.
“Yeah, they always pick me up and cheer for me really loud,” Bona said with a playful smile. “It was pretty easy. They all just kind of called me 'so cute' and it just kind of happened.”
Bona, who attends Ben Franklin Middle School, is in her first season with the Bulldogs track and field team and in just a few short weeks has gone from running JV races to establishing herself as one of the 'Dogs top two-mile runners and as the program's brightest young star.
Like any youngster who is coming onto a varsity team, Bona understandably had some concerns, such as how she would measure up against girls who are older, bigger and stronger.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, but then I was happy,” Bona said. “It was mostly physically. Like winning and getting good times.”
Beyond the competition side of track, there was also the social aspect of varsity sports as Bona wondered if she would be able to blend with her older teammates beyond the lines of the playing field.
Bona said the way that everyone welcomed her into the team circle took a tremendous weight off of her shoulders, helped her relax and focus on being the best runner she possibly can be.
“It's comforting, really.” Bona said.
Intelligent and well-spoken Bona is mature beyond her years as she carries herself with a blend of confidence and humility that is very rare in anyone at any age these days.
“She has the mentality and the attitude that she is going to succeed and do well, no matter who she is competing against,” said Ken East girls track coach Jennifer Stanton. “She gives it a hundred and ten percent in practice, at meets. She just improves in every meet.”
Bona's combination of hard work and dedication won her the respect of her teammates. And her outgoing personality and baby face instantly melted the hearts of her teammates who flock around Bona after each race to congratulate her.
“She's definitely a feisty Italian,” Lady Bulldogs senior co-captain Megan Talmon said with a smile. “Very sweet, very nice. She's very hard working. There's really nothing you can say wrong about her.”
Getting to know Bona through their time together in the Lady Bulldogs soccer program, Talmon said the Bulldogs track and soccer teams both have a winner in Bella.
“I definitely think she's a very good athlete. She's so young and she's got so much potential in track and soccer,” said Talmon. “Even in soccer, we all just loved her. She looked up to us.”
Knowing that she has really just taken her first few baby steps on her road as a varsity athlete, Bona is aware that every day will be a learning process. And if she remembers to keep working hard and have fun, anything is possible.
“In the beginning it was kind of tough and I wasn't really that good,” Bona said. “But I've been improving a lot and they want me at varsity now.”
Now, and for a long time to come.