Sidney Bullock’s summer has gone pretty much like a million other high school graduates ... with little twists.
After graduating from Richland High, she got a summer job to make money for college ... giving swimming lessons in the family’s backyard pool.
She stayed active, stayed in shape ... running 10 miles a day.
She excitedly went about getting ready for college ... then showed up at BYU’s campus in Provo, Utah, about a month ahead of the rest of the incoming freshman class so she could train with the school’s cross country team.
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And like so many college hopefuls, Bullock went about sniffing out scholarship money ... and ran a mile-and-a-half race for $10,000.
Yeah, safe to say there is always a little something extra where Bullock is concerned.
Bullock found out Monday that she won a $10,000 scholarship through the Boomer Esiason Foundation Exercise for Life program, which encourages athletic achievement among kids with cystic fibrosis.
“I’m so excited,” Bullock said after hearing the good news. “A lot of good feelings. A lot of gratitude, too. It’s so wonderful. It’s a lot of happiness in the family.”
It’s the second significant scholarship she has won through the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which was started by the former NFL quarterback 21 years ago when his son, Gunnar, was diagnosed with CF. Bullock also won an academic scholarship for $10,000, which was announced during last season’s Super Bowl. The award was based on grades, community service, extracurricular activities — basically demonstrating that kids with CF can lead productive lives.
It is a message dear to Bullock’s heart, and one she takes seriously.
She ran varsity cross country and track for Richland starting as a freshman. She ran well enough as a sophomore and junior to qualify individually for state cross country. In track, she posted times of 5 minutes, 20.80 seconds in the 1,600 meters and 11:36.67 in the 3,200 this past spring.
But when her love of running began back in middle school, there were no examples of other kids with CF to help foster her competitive nature. In that regard, Bullock is unique. As the genetic disease coats the lungs with thick mucus and makes it difficult to breathe, competitive runners with CF are extraordinarily rare.
“But that was good,” she said. “There was no shadow to set my horizon on. I just do what I want and see how far I could go. That was good for me.”
The opportunity arose to compete for the Exercise for Life scholarship, and she logged her training miles and went through a series of interviews. The national field was whittled down to two boys and two girls as finalists, each guaranteed $5,000. Each then ran a mile and a half, and the fastest boy and girl won another $5,000.
“I win either way,” Bullock said, “but I always go for the gold.”
Bullock found out she was a finalist a week before she ran her timed race July 21 at Richland’s Fran Rish Stadium. Her time would be measured against the other girl, who ran later in her hometown.
“I was really excited-slash-scared,” Bullock said of finding out she was a finalist.
She had been training for distance to prep for BYU, where she hopes to walk on with the cross country team. To most people, a mile and a half is long distance. For Bullock, it’s a sprint. So she stopped her 10-mile runs (at a 7-minute-mile pace) and returned to the speed training that helped her in the spring.
But for all her training, she couldn’t shake those nerves. And the Boomer Esiason representative who came to town to time her picked about the worst day for Bullock to race.
“I just wanted to be alone,” she said of her race, adding that she told her family to stay away.
So what did she find when she showed up at the track?
“The BAD (Bomber Athletic Development) program was going on,” she said, laughing. “There were so many kids on the track.”
They cleared out the inner two lanes, and her time in the mile and a half was 9:08. When she found out this week that she won, Bullock wasn’t told the other girl’s name or time. She was hoping for that information: “The other girl, she’s another me out there.”
Another her, someone who understands the grind of the daily regimen she must follow, and what it’s like to race on the days she must fight her body.
She called CF a “blessing in disguise” because it has shown her how much she can overcome, and how much she can deal with. But she warned that if anyone else called it a blessing, “I’d probably smack them.”
Bullock admits to having bad days when she “goes insane.”
“When I do have one of those days when I don’t want to run, I keep it in the back of my mind: Everybody is watching, and I can give hope to other people,” she said. “I’ve taken that purpose on myself.”
“It’s given me a purpose,” she added, “which is so valuable to everyone’s life. I’m running for something.”
Inspiration that comes from determination.
“I don’t want to look back and say, ‘I wish I had tried this,’ ” she said. “I want to put it all on the table and see where life takes me.”