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Bella Daniel, front row left, was the lone member of the Madison Academy swim team to advance to the AHSAA State Swim and Diving Championships. The talented seventh grade student-athlete placed third in the 200 IM to capture a bronze medal. Photo Contributed

Bella Daniel Takes To Winners’ Podium As Lone Representative Of Madison Academy Swim Team

MADISON- As she took to the winner’s podium in the recent Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) State Swim and Diving Championships, Bella Daniel excepted her third place bronze medal in the girls 200-IM with great pride and honor as a member of the Madison Academy swim team. Due to COVID-19 restrictions put in place, none of her fellow teammates were able to be present for the ceremony. Not only were they not allowed to be there to share the excitement with Daniel, none of the remaining nine team members qualified for the State Championships as she was the lone Mustang to make it to state.

“I thought it was a big deal for me to be the only one from our team to qualify,” said Daniel. “I wasn’t lonely as I can take care of myself. Having Coach (Whitney) Mitchell there was great.”

To make the outstanding achievement even more fascinating is the fact Daniel is just a seventh grade student-athlete and the youngest member of the Mustangs’ squad. In all, the 12-year old qualified for the Class 1A-5A state in four events- 100, 200 and 500 freestyle and the 200 individual medley. She chose the two races she thought she had a chance to excel in and took third in the 200-IM (2:24.88) and seventh in the 100 freestyle (59.43).

Daniel excelled in her first state meet with her time in the IM a personal best for her and the time posted in the 100 freestyle was a drop of over one second. Her work ethic is second to none according to Mitchell.

“She is very tedious on her swimming technique and is extremely intelligent about the sport and how she wants to compete at her best,” said Mitchell, who just completed her third season as head coach of Madison Academy and was a four-year coach among the Huntsville Swim Association (HSA).

The Mustangs had 18 swimmers on the team roster a year ago, but due to some choosing not to swim due to COVID-19 and others transferring to public schools, the roster dwindled down to nine for the 2020 season, which was the team’s seventh year in existence.

“I hope to have Bella as a base for our team for the next five years,” added Mitchell. “With her success at the recent meet I look for her to entice others to join the team.”

Daniel has participated in gymnastics, dance, basketball, softball and summer league swimming for both the HAS and the Greenwich Gators community swim team. She began swimming at age seven and said she didn’t know what to expect or if swimming was really what she wanted. Now, five years later, her life revolves around the sport.

“I also participate in chorus at Madison Academy, but swimming is what I do most as I love my coaches and being around my friends,” said Daniel. “I was surprised I made the top three at state as I was swimming against much older high school athletes, but I was not intimidated. I knew where I was and I just did my best.”

The daughter of Brent and Lori Daniel and sister to Caroline, 10, who also swims, Daniel has her future sort of gathered up in her mind as she wants to swim in college, preferably at Alabama, and attend veterinarian school at Auburn. Her career in swimming took a short detour last summer after suffering a right shoulder injury that required her to sit out the entire summer season. She underwent physical therapy sessions each week and somehow progressed to be as strong as ever once the high school swim season began.

“I set my goals higher this year as I needed faster qualifying times that the AHSAA set for the entire state,” said Daniel. “As for being the only team member to make it to state, I felt proud to represent my school and my team. I enjoyed it.”

Daniel stood tall on the winner’s podium and stood even taller for her Madison Academy swim team.

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