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Drew Bell, longtime coach at James Clemens, stamds proudly after earning four All-American and two National Champion honors at the recent USATF Masters Indoor Track Championships. Photo Contributed

Drew Bell- All-American, National Champion

LOUISVILLE, KY.- Drew Bell of Madison once stated, “I want to make Madison proud.” After four days in Louisville, Ky. on the second weekend in March, he robustly gave all of Madison something to be proud of as he earned All-American status four times and twice earned the title of National Champion while participating in the 2023 USATF Masters Indoor Track Championships.

“After the meet I awoke thinking the event was nothing but a dream, but then the pain and soreness of competing hit me and reality settled in,” said Bell. “My results from this meet means a lot after 16 weeks of sacrifice and suffering through training while losing 40 pounds. What an experience.”

Bell, at age 57, is the only track head coach in the history of James Clemens High and has enjoyed a recent necessary change in his life.

Bell’s incredible performances at the national event held in the Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Center located in Louisville, Ky. included finishing sixth in the age 55-59 division 3,000-meter race with a time of 11:15.80. The winning time of 9:45.88 was presented by Charles Novak; In the 1,500m race Bell’s time was 5:06.65 and was good enough to put him among the top eight, which represents All-American status, while the winner was again Novak with a time of 4:24.67; In the final race of his three-days of racing was the 800m where Bell gave his final tremendous effort only to place No. 14 with a time of 2:38.61, well behind Novak’s again top time of 2:06.71.

In between those races Bell was invited to join a team in the 40-44 age group, which included Scott Siriano, Daniel Monistere and Michael “PC” Patton. Patton is a former student of Bell’s while Patton attended Pensacola Catholic High in 1998-1999 while Bell taught and coached at the Florida school. In the 4×800 relay, the team placed first with a time of 10:51.78 while in the 4×200 relay, the team again placed first with a winning time of 2:06.69. Both first place finishes gave the team a status of National Champion.

“Yes, PC and I even roomed together while in Louisville,” said Bell. “After my run in the 1500m, they asked me to join their team for the 4×800 and after that race where I did very well, they asked me to be a part of their 4×200 relay. Our team comprised of runners from Colorado, Texas, Kansas and of course Alabama. We’re actually going to another national event in July to run the 4×800.”

The national gathering of some of the top athletes in the country made the trek to Louisville and Bell feels blessed to have been among them, not just from the standpoint of being a qualified athlete, but also from his personal battle with illness and his return to competition. In his lifetime, he has participated in 26 National Championship events and earned the status of All-American 22 times, seven of which have occurred in 2023. Besides the four he earned in Louisville, Bell also claimed similar accolades in the 5k road races, 10k road races and half-marathon events.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been at this level as the last four months I’ve been on a whole new level of competitiveness,” said Bell. “Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior has led me in this trip. I awoke from a dream 18 months ago and wrote down five dates and I wasn’t sure what they meant. Come to find out the dates included those days in Louisville along with four other dates that I found out were national events, too. It’s unbelievable.”

Those dates he dreamt include April 2 for the USATF Road Runner 10-mile in Washington D.C., May 21 at Oak Mountain Park in Birmingham for the America’s Mountain Trail National Championships, July 8-13 for the Senior Olympics in Pittsburg where Bell will be the Alabama representative in the 5 and 10K races, and Aug. 5 for the RRCA 5K Championships scheduled to be held in Anniston. He’s also qualified for and will run in the New York City Marathon scheduled for November.

Over the past three years Bell has suffered from COVID-19 three times and the illness he feels exposes every weakness of the body and brings it to the forefront. “I’ve had an abnormal heartrate and have had issues with that,” added Bell. “I checked myself throughout the weekend in Louisville and my rate actually was very high at times, but I have a passion for what I’m doing.”

An educator for 30 years, Bell is looking at retirement, but has yet to set a timeframe, though he feels it’s coming soon.

“I’ve put everyone else in front of me all these years and in the back of my mind I knew I could do this. It was my time,” said Bell, with the sound of relief in his voice. “I’ve served everybody else. Now I want to serve myself and Jesus Christ has helped me. Once I retire, I have plans to travel the world and run in special events.”

Bell has the driving force of his own personal need to succeed, he has the desire to push himself to the limit and he’s facing his challenges all with the grace of God. “After my performances in Louisville my life will never be the same. I even surprised myself with my performances and my relay team members were in awe of what I was doing. In the 1,500m race I was in 12th place with 400 meters to go. I pushed myself with an awesome kick at the end and finished with a 30-second personal best time.”

With his personal sacrifices over the months of training and overcoming health issues, it’s easy to see Bell has made his attention getting mark among the residents of Madison, but more importantly, within his inner self and his faith with God.

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