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High School Swimming

Trib HSSN Boys Swimmer of the Week: New Castle’s Zachary Bell

Michael Love
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New Castle’s Zachary Bell will compete at the 2019 WPIAL swim championships.

Zachary Bell is making the most of his final WPIAL swimming season.

The senior, an independent competitor representing New Castle, recently established a new personal season-best time and a WPIAL-best mark in the Class AA boys 200-yard freestyle when he swam 1 minute, 45.19 seconds to claim the title at the Midwestern Athletic Conference championships Feb. 9 at Moon High School.

“I fought long and hard with him to do the 200 because he was worried about his asthma and longer distances,” said Anita Murphy, Bell’s coach through the New Castle Community YMCA club program.

“You could see the joy. It made me happy. It was great to see him branch out. For him to win the MAC title, it was the cherry on top.”

In the 100 free at the MAC meet, Bell’s YMCA teammate Conner McBeth, a sophomore at Neshannock, scored the victory (47.77). Bell placed second (48.51).

“Zach has really become comfortable in his skin,” Murphy said. “He has really matured a lot, and his confidence has grown.”

Bell’s time in the 200 free from the MAC championships also qualifies him for YMCA Nationals, set for April 1 to 5 in Greensboro, N.C.

Bell has qualified for the WPIAL championships in several individual events, and he still is deciding which two he will swim at the meet Feb. 28 and March 1 at Pitt’s Trees Pool.

Swimmers have until Monday to declare their events.

“He is a very versatile swimmer,” Murphy said.

Last year, Bell competed at WPIALs in the 50 free and 100 free and finished fourth and third, respectively.

He made the consolation finals in the 100 free at the PIAA championships at Bucknell University and placed 11th.

Bell took 17th in the 50 free at states, missing the cut for the consolation finals by two one-hundredths of a second.

“He’s always worked hard, and this season, he got the mindset that he was going to race his own race and not worry about anybody else,” Murphy said.

In addition to his goals for his final high school season, Bell has locked down his plans for college as he has signed a letter of intent to swim at Division II Salem International in West Virginia.

“That’s a big weight off his shoulders,” Murphy said. “He has been able to relax, have fun and not worry about what he is going to do next.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at [email protected] or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.