South Western Aquatics’ Jessica Bell was back in the medal hunt at the Western Region Short Course Championships in Brantford, Feb. 1-3.
Bell, 16, had been near the top of the provincial rankings as a younger swimmer. But it’s been a couple years, she said, since she swam at that level.
“The last couple years have been tough,” she admitted. “There was just something different about last weekend – in a good way – that resulted in me getting some best times… which hasn’t happened for a while.
“They always tell you, ‘oh, girls always plateau at that age.’ So many girls reach that age and they give up,” she said, noting there are currently three 16-year-olds training in Tillsonburg now, compared to past years when they had 17 and 18-year-old girls.
“It’s really frustrating.”
Physically she’s grown over the past two years, but there wasn’t an overnight transition into ‘power swimmer.’
“I was smaller two years ago – and once your limbs grow bigger, your body gets bigger, everything changes. You don’t feel physically the same any more.”
With two younger siblings on the competitive team – Justin and Brittany – and her dad going to morning practices, she laughed, there’s a certain obligation to continue swimming.
“I also feel that because my times were so fast when I was younger… I don’t think I was just a one-hit wonder. I think I can reach that point again. It’s just a mental fight for it. I’ve been told that I’ve been physically trained to be able to reach those times, I just have to connect it mentally. And I haven’t been able to. It might sound easy, but it’s not.”
Bell won bronze medals in Brantford in 16-and-older 50m breaststroke, 100m breast and 200m breast.
“In my 200, the girl who got first was way ahead of everyone, but me and the girl who got second were really close.”
During the race Bell shot from seventh to fourth, and by the end had pulled into third – nearly beating the silver-medal winner.
Most important, she was able to maintain her pace most of the race.
“Better than I have been,” she nodded.
Her goal this year – unofficially – was to make a provincial time, and she did that in Brantford.
“I didn’t know I had made it until Roman told me today (Monday). Swim Canada has changed the rules so you have to re-make it every year. So I re-made it this and it’s just really exciting.”
Her short-term goal, swimming in SWA’s home meet this weekend, is to improve some of her other events.
“I never really set it in stone ‘let’s make provincials.’ I think, subconsciously, I put pressure on myself, so I try not to set those goals.”
Instead her focus is on a specific time, irrelevant to the provincial qualifying times, or focus on her splits.
“This weekend I told Roman not to put me in any breaststroke – just because I swam it last weekend and the weekend before that in Etobicoke. I want to do some IM and improve on my freestyle times to be an all-around swimmer, not just have one really good strong point.”