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Thursday, February 12, 2009
Updated: March 19, 12:43 PM ET
Olympics or bust for Goodman

By Christopher Parish

Chalonda Goodman was standing at the starting line of the 100-meter final at last year's Class AAAAA state meet when it started to rain.

Chalonda Goodman has won six state titles and four national titles.

No big deal, right? Athletes compete in rain all the time. Football players, soccer players and even sprinters are used to dealing with wet weather. But Goodman, then the two-time defending state champ in the 100 and 200, had a reason to be miffed at the downpour: The state meet was taking place the same day as her junior prom.

Not willing to miss out on either momentous event, Goodman had gotten her hair done prior to the meet and was ready to compete in her races before trading in her track spikes for dancing shoes. The weather had other ideas.

Suddenly she was soaked, and her perfect hair was a mess. Many other girls would have been immediately distracted. And that concern crossed the mind of her coach and father, Harold, as he watched from the sideline. "I hope she's not going to lose focus and start worrying about that hair," he remembers thinking.

Not Chalonda. Despite a slick track and less-than-ideal conditions, she won the 100 and set a state record of 11.45 seconds in the process. She narrowly missed another record on her way to the 200 title.

"I forgot about everything else," Goodman says. "I wasn't even thinking about my hair. I didn't think about it until the meet was over."

For someone whose ultimate goal is to reach the Olympics, a ruined hairdo certainly isn't going to slow her down. And with six state titles and four national championships to her credit, Goodman's Olympic aspirations aren't far-fetched. The 5-foot-9 Newnan (Ga.) senior is the nation's most dominant sprinter and the No. 2 overall recruit in the ESPNU DyeStat girls' track rankings.

Throughout all her successes, Goodman's vision of standing atop the medal podium at the 2012 Games in London has kept her motivated.

"She wants to be an Olympian," her father says. "That keeps her going, even when the training gets a little tough."

The Olympics have been a goal for Goodman since she watched the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. She marveled at the speed and grace of sprinters like Michael Johnson and Gail Devers, soaking in every brilliant moment. Twelve years later, she insisted on watching every minute of the track and field events at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. What she couldn't watch she recorded and studied later.

"She was glued to the TV," her father says. "She was watching all the times, trying to figure out where she stood and what she'd have to do in order to compete at that level in 2012."

Goodman plans to go back and watch those tapes over and over, studying the strategies of the world's best.

"I'll be looking at the starts and the techniques," she says. "Usain Bolt inspired me and shocked me. There were quite a few disappointments (for the Americans). I'm definitely going to be a part of the Olympics in four years."

Getting there won't be easy, but her father knows she's never lacked the desire.

"In order to be exceptional, it's going to take extra work," he says. "It takes a few extra days a week, that extra 25 or 30 minutes. And that little extra separates you from those other athletes."

Goodman manages to find that extra time even among her many other endeavors. Between her athletic training, her outstanding academic work -- she sports a 4.0 GPA -- and her efforts outside the classroom, she's always on the go.

She's a member of her school's Kiwanis Key Club, performing charitable works around her community, and she's also participated in the Habitat for Humanity program. Goodman spent this past winter vacation getting up as early as 6:30 each day to work at battered women's shelters and also to buy gifts for less fortunate children. Even with all that on her plate during vacation, she never neglected to find time for a workout.

Part of that work ethic stems from observing her brother, Demiko, a former track and football sensation at Newnan who went on to compete in both sports at Georgia.

When Demiko suffered a torn ACL in the fall of 2006 and was forced to battle back from injury, Chalonda watched closely. As she has battled her own injuries -- though none as serious -- his experiences and support have helped her work through it all.

"I learned a lot from him," says Goodman, who committed to Texas in early February. "He really motivated me."

Between her Olympic dream and the example set by her brother, Goodman's mix of inspirations have made her unbeatable on the track since her freshman year. She edged the competition to win the 100 and 200 at state as a freshman, claiming both titles by less than two-tenths of a second. The winning margins got wider and wider her sophomore and junior years, culminating with the state record in the 100 last season.

Her four national championships have come the past two years at Nike Outdoor Nationals. In 2007, she won the 100 and 200 by two-hundredths of a second each. Her victories were more decisive last year, especially in the 200, which she won by nearly a full second.

Her goals this year would be lofty for any other prep sprinter, but Goodman talks about them so casually it's as if they're no big deal.

"I want to break some records this year," she says. "I'd like to get back to state and win my fourth titles in the 100 and 200. And of course I'd love to get back to Nike Outdoor Nationals and win my third straight national titles."

But those pale in comparison to her larger goal of achieving Olympic glory, which she still has about three and a half years to work toward.

Along the way, she's also hoping for some drier conditions.

Christopher Parish covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.