By Josh Brown
CANTON — Jay Bell had spent the entire season in the lead.
And, though he was behind going into the turn in his final race, he finished in front one final time.
Bell swam a time of 20.82 seconds in the 50 free, claiming Tippecanoe’s first ever state title in swimming Friday afternoon at the Division II state meet at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.
“Going in as the first seed, I was a little nervous,” the Tippecanoe senior said. “But as soon as I stepped up onto the block, that nervous feeling fell away. I was just happy. I knew it was my last race, and I wanted to go out in style.
“I knew I was a little behind, but I kept my composure. I knew I could hit the flip turn, I did, and after that it was easy from there.”
“It’s really neat,” Tippecanoe coach Karl Stanbery said. “I went to him two or three races ahead of his and just told him ‘go do what you do. It’s your goal, you’ve worked hard and you deserve it.’ It was a really neat experience to watch someone from this school win a state title, and to do it the way he did, through hard work.”
And after the race, Bell’s first order of business was to be with his teammates.
“I immediately gave coach a hug, then all my friends gave me hugs. It was a great feeling,” Bell said. “I wouldn’t have been there if not for them.”
And they all had their own business to take care of, too.
Evan Stapp finished fifth in the 200 IM (1:54.64), then Bell (46.67 seconds) and Stapp (46.76 seconds) were fifth and sixth in the 100 free, respectively. The 200 medley relay of Bell, Stapp, Ryan Wall and Ben Jans placed eighth in a school-record time of 1:39.04 and the 200 free relat of Bell, Stapp, Wall and Adam Buynak finished 12th (1:29.85).
The girls 400 free relay team of Arielle Arnett, Cami Cahill, Samantha Williams and Alexis Cook swam a school record time of 3:40.39 and finished 10th — with Cook swimming a school-record 54.33 seconds in her 100 of the relay. Arnett was also ninth in the 500 free (5:03.14) and 14th in the 200 free (1:55.05).
“It’s just a testament to these kids and how hard they’ve worked to get to this point,” Stanbery said. “Everyone swam really well this weekend. It’s amazing to see how everyone performed. It was a privelege to coach these kids. It was really awsome to watch everything pay off for these seniors.”
“It’s still sinking in. It’s a really good feeling,” said Bell of being the team’s first state champ. “Tipp swimming has a pretty good rep right now, so it’s an honor. I’m also excited to see how it progresses from here. I think it’s all uphill from here.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.