By Justin Grant
Not only has Pelham’s own, 17-year-old Jennifer Bell carved out a niche as a High School All-American Diver and a four-time USA Diving Regional 1 Champion – she is also taking the diving world by storm.
Bell was fortunate to discover her talent for diving when she was only 9 years old. Eight years later, she’s hoping to make her mark as the next best diver in the world. We spoke to Bell about her journey as a diver from childhood through high school.
As a child, Bell was considerably sports-oriented, taking on eight sports, one of them swimming. When asked what attracted her to become involved in diving, she replied, “One year when I was on the Pelham Country Club swim team I saw divers and thought, ‘“I want to try that.’” “So I signed up the next year and I performed poorly.” However, the following year she learned a lot and her summer coach Ben told her that she should continue diving. Afterward, Bell joined the New York Diving Club in Fordham and won Nationals in her first year. It was at that point Bell knew she was going to pursue diving as her career path.
Once a freshman at Pelham Memorial High School, Bell was faced with several challenges. As Bell recalled, one of the biggest challenges that she dealt with was managing her school work with her diving practices and meets. She explained that when she was an underclassman she would get overwhelmed and freaked out whenever there was a great deal of school work. As each year progressed, Bell gained successful time management skills and useful resources. She stated, “I always make sure to use my academic time to talk with teachers if there is a major test or assignment coming up.”
Despite any challenges that Bell is up against in high school, she has laid claim to major feats as a diver. Not only was Bell named the National Interscholastic Swimming Coach (NISCA) / Speedo All-American Diver but she also won five National Diving Championships. In addition, Bell improved her overall standings at New York Championships. Asked how it felt being named a High School All-American Diver, she replied, “It’s an amazing feeling,” adding, “My mom once told me that there is nobody in Section 1 diving who is a two-time All-American Diver.” That serves as encouragement to know that there is nobody else at the moment who accomplished as much as she has.
Now a senior at PMHS, Bell unveiled where she will be attending college. Bell became the first diving commit for the Class of 2023 at The University of Virginia. She expressed her interest in the college and mentioned how she knows the campus inside out.
Most importantly, though, she will be competing for her parents alma mater. The academics and atmosphere at UVA is what attracted Bell the most, stating, “I didn’t decide go to UVA because my parents went there or because of diving.” Bell continued, “My dad told me that it doesn’t matter what school you go to because you will be getting an education that you will be able to use for your entire life.”
Although diving and classes take up most of Bell’s time, she was able to be part of the Science Olympiad during her freshman through junior years. Unfortunately, Bell was unable to fit it into her senior schedule due to preparations for college. She did enjoy being a part of Spirit Week and will fondly remember being part of the Science Olympiad.
As Bell prepares for college next year, she laid out her goals and expectations when she joins the diving team. One of her top goals is to make NCAA as a freshman. In addition, she’s going to find a good balance between diving every day along with workouts and weight training.
When asked what her message was for younger girls or boys looking to pursue a similar path as an All-American athlete, she replied, “You’re going to hit bumps in the road and people will try and knock you down and try to make life harder.” Her message was to keep practicing and never listen to negative people. “You should surround yourself with people who tell you that you are great and be real with you.”
Bell also mentioned that her favorite quote that influenced her was from a Chinese proverb which reads, “Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it.” Bell shared her goal to make NCAA as a freshman, some would say, “Oh, it’s really hard to make it first year and maybe you should go for it during your second year.” She responded to them saying, “Nope, I am going to do it.”
Such a positive focus pays off. Recently, Jennifer won her fourth Section 1 Diving Championship, a section record, and earned her sixth consecutive trip to the New York State Diving Championship, another record. There her focus will be to win the championship.