The Bonnemas: The identical power team


Caitlin Derby

Fans and parents are dispersed along the field, careful to keep out of the course. One runner rounds the corner, making her way to the finish line, kicking in her last little bit of energy in the last 400 meters. As that one runner nears, it is clear it is not an individual at all. It’s two identical runners. Moving across the course in the same motion, both going the same speed, pushing each other to the finish one step at a time. 

   These two runners are identical twins Abby and Sophie Bonnema. They finish the race with less than half a second between them. Each one pulling each other one step ahead. On this day, Sophie took 3rd and Abby took 4th. 

   The Bonnema sisters are not new to the sport of cross country. “We started Girls on the Run in elementary school, and then we were encouraged to do cross-country in middle school,” Sophie said. From that point on, the Bonnemas have been consistently involved in running, training with the team and alone, always giving their best on and off the course. 

   Throughout their running careers, the Bonnemas displayed natural talent, but they were nowhere near the level they are at now. In fact, there was a 40-second gap between the season best of the two sisters during the 2019 season. 

   Now, in the current cross-country season, the Bonnema sisters are getting faster,  running side by side, and performing at their peak. On September 26, at the Cougar Falcon Invitational, Sophie ran a 5k time of 19:42 with Abby right on her hip running a time of 19:43. Personal records for both. 

  “We both know that we are fast enough to run with each other, so if one of us is having a better day, it motivates the other to keep up with the sister in front of you. We’ve done it before, so we just try,” Sophie said. “We just try to stay with each other as long as we can, because eventually, someone is going to pull away, but you are still just trying to stick with them,” Abby added. 

   The girls motivate each other to stay strong and finish the races. Cross country is a sport of endurance. That means having mental toughness and motivation is the key to high performance in a painful and exhausting sport like cross-country. Having a twin, running and performing the same level, pulling you along throughout the entire 3.1 miles is a huge push of motivation. 

   Interestingly enough, the girls don’t always train together. “When we are not at practice, we run separate,” Sophie said. Although, one advantage the girls had was being able to run together during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the rest of the team was running solo.  “In the spring we were able to workout and do time trials together when everybody else had to run alone.” 

   As well as having each other, the Bonnemas are grateful for their team’s support. “The team just motivates me to run at my best constantly,” Sophie said. Whether it’s in the middle of a race, or on the sidelines of a difficult workout, teammates are always empowering others, pushing them through the pain of running. 

   The girls also both find  motivation in watching their times get lower and lower. “It’s always cool to see all of your times next to each other and see them improve, obviously times aren’t the most important thing though,” Abby said.

   Now, after putting in the work during the training season, the Bonnema sisters are creating their proudest moments, together. 

   Sophie’s greatest achievement was finishing the 5k under 20 minutes in a dual meet against Rockford. Sophie took second in the race. West Ottawa then went on to dominate Rockford with a score of 19 to 36.  Abby’s is taking first at the Bredeweg Invitational. The team then went on to win the invite.  All of this taking place in the 2020 season. 

   Abby and Sophie both have goals for their future. “Timewise, I want to break 19:30,” Abby said. Sophie also holds this same goal. “I may also want to run in college. That would be a good goal, but I’m not sure yet,” Sophie said. 

   In the future, the girls would ideally love to stay together as a sister duo team and continue to push each other to their full potential. “It would be cool to run together at the same college. I don’t know if that’s something to plan on, but it would definitely be cool,” Sophie said. 

   The West Ottawa Cross Country team has had a successful season so far; they’ve dominated the OK Red Conference, and are holding the title of OK Red Champions for the second year in a row.  While racing against some of the best teams in the state, they tied against Saline with 54 points, and lost the tiebreaker coming in second at the West Ottawa Women’s Invitational. The team is currently ranked fourth in the state, the highest ranking in school history. 

   They have trained hard all summer and fall, and with championship season coming to a start the Bonnemas and the rest of the West Ottawa Cross Country team are ready to show what they’ve got. They are bringing all they’ve got coming into championship season. The team has already reached their first goal of winning the OK Red Conference Championship and winning the pre regional race with a score of 26 and Jenison coming in second with a score of 72. The team now looks forward to winning regionals and placing in the state meet. 

   For now, the Bonnema twins continue to push each other in practice and on the racecourse. Between the shared DNA, always being together, and the hard work, it’s clear that the Bonnema sisters both hold an immense amount of talent and skill when it comes to running and are continuing to push each other to the finish line.