Sacajuwea Hunter and Charla Ramsey train together and are close friends. But on the track, it's all business when they go head-to-head.
"She's my best friend," said Ramsey, who was seconds away from qualifying for the 800-meter wheelchair race in the Los Angeles Olympics last August. "When we can, we spend as much time together. But I'm out to win on the track. You don't let being friends excuse you from winning."
In the 1985 Capital Wheelchair Races yesterday at Gallaudet College, Hunter and Ramsey were entered in the open 200 meters, and it was close the entire race. In the last 100 meters, Hunter took a chair-length's lead, but Ramsey approached even at the finish line. Hunter won in 41.28 seconds, and Ramsey was second at 41.67. They both qualified for the national championships June 11-15 at Edinboro, Pa.
Hunter took part in the Olympics last August, and finished fourth in the 800 meters. She plans to compete in the 1988 Olympics and hopes the introduction of wheelchair racing will spur more athletes to train. "It was the most exciting thing in my life," said Hunter, whose best events are 400, 800 and 1,500 meters. "I worked as hard as I could, but when I go back to the '88 Olympics, I hope to do better."
Hunter, who is 15 and lives in the District, says now that wheelchair competition has been tested in the Olympics, there will be more events in 1988. The 800 meters was the only race in 1984. "It was almost like a test to see what people could do," said Hunter, who has raced for eight years. "Wheelchair sports have been going on a long time, but people are just starting to notice. By '88 there should be more events and competition to race against."
Ramsey, an 11th grader at H.D. Woodson, said, "I think it was noticed and a lot of people will support it in the future by us getting exposure. More and more people get into it every year. The younger ones are ripening with us."
Hunter and Ramsey train together three days a week under Bill Greene, their coach in the Capital Wheelchair Club. Ramsey, who thinks she does better in the sprint races, uses Hunter's success as a motivation.
"When you see how much fun Saca had, it makes you want it badly," she said. "In practice, we're both trying to beat each other. We go all out and then it's just who will outlast whom. I think if I had trained just that much harder, I could have made it. I'll just have to train harder."
Ramsey plans to attend college after high school, which could mean an end to her racing career. "It's very demanding to go to college and train," she said. "I'll just have to decide when I come back from school whether I want to stay with it."