2-Time WAC Champion Lainie Bell Transfers to Eastern Michigan

Two-time WAC Conference Champion Lainie Bell has announced that she will transfer from Northern Arizona to Eastern Michigan next season.

“I transferred solely for the swimming,” Bell said of her decision. “I just think Eastern Michigan is going to be a great opportunity for me. This’ll be Coach Derek (Perkins)’s second year there, and he’s really trying to do something incredible with the program.

“After talking with him this year, I can tell that he has some very high goals. Coincidentally, so do I. I fully believe that he’s going to achieve them all, and I want to be there when that happens. Also, Coach Derek is so nice that I didn’t want to have to tell him no.”

Bell spent one season at NAU, where she was the team’s fastest 100 and 200 yard backstroker. At a disrupted WAC Championship meet, where all sessions wound up being closed timed-finals events due to a massive water main break in Houston, Bell won the conference title in the 200 back in 1:56.94, which was 1.3 seconds ahead of her next-best competitor; and tied for 1st place in the 100 back in 54.75.

In her 3rd individual event, the 50 free, she placed 14th in 23.70, which a 200 free relay split of 23.29.

Besides a likely spot immediately on Eastern Michigan’s free relays (her 50 would have ranked 3rd on the team last season), she’ll also bolster a backstroke group that is graduating its top two swimmers: Claire Young (24.73/53.49/1:55.34) and Case Gavigan (26.31/54.64/1:57.94). That will leave her with the fastest times on the team in all 3 backstroke distances, though rising senior Ali Staver (54.89) will battle her for medley relay spots.

Young was 2nd in both the 100 and 200 backstroke last season at the MAC Championship meet behind Bowling Green State’s Daisy Platts (52.87/1:54.45).

Bell’s Best Times in Yards:

  • 50 free – 23.65
  • 100 free – 51.79
  • 200 free – 1:55.99
  • 50 back – 26.18
  • 100 back – 54.75
  • 200 back – 1:56.94

Eastern Michigan finished 3rd at the MAC conference championship meet in 2020. Bell’s best times would have put her 6th and 5th in the 100 and 200 yard backstroke, respectively, at that meet. Eastern Michigan had 3 of the top 6 finishers in the 100 back at that meet.

NAU’s top returning backstroker will be Sarah O’Connor, a rising senior, who was 55.80/2:01.12 in the 100 and 200 backstroke last season. They’ll bring in a 57.38/2:03.53 backstroker Abigail Tashlein and a 57.12/2:02.51 backstroker Annie Carlton next season to help bolster that group.

Bell’s twin brother Liam, who was the SEC runner-up in the 100 breaststroke last season as a freshman at Alabama, is also in the NCAA transfer portal this season. Eastern Michigan does not have a men’s team, having dropped that program in 2018, which means that the pair won’t be reunited next season.

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3 years ago

My understanding is that she wanted a better college swim experience. Swimming for Derek Perkins will be a great opportunity for her and I am sure she will contribute a lot to the team.

3 years ago

She is beautiful

swammer (interested high school coach)
3 years ago

Does anyone know what type of surgeries she had?

3 years ago

EMU’s coach is Derek Perkins. Derek Schmitt coaches for ASU.

3 years ago

Both Liam and Lainie went best times this year at their respective schools and both are transferring. Both have a history of club hopping. I detect a pattern.

Know her personally
Reply to  JohnJ
3 years ago

Unfortunately, there is a lot more to the story than what appears on the surface. Yes, the sister (and brother) does have a pattern of switching teams, but she is a lovely young lady and an absolute thrill to be around. Both are just looking for the right fit and doing what is best for them. I wish Lainie the best of luck in all her endeavors!

ex teammate
Reply to  JohnJ
3 years ago

I have swum with Lainie and there is a reason why she is transferring, don’t be surprised if she tries to transfer again after a year at EMU

B1G Daddy
3 years ago

Liam to Michigan? The two campuses are 8 miles apart, the two closest Division I programs in America.

Reply to  B1G Daddy
3 years ago

Not really…Boston College,Harvard, Boston University and Northeastern- all Division 1 programs are all within 3.5 miles of each other.

Reply to  Swim3057
3 years ago


B1G Daddy
Reply to  B1G Daddy
3 years ago

They are the two closest Division I football programs.

Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

They are the two closest Division I football programs that are within the state of Michigan.


Almost had it
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

Braden’s an me savage over here

B1G Daddy
Reply to  B1G Daddy
3 years ago

Berna & Derya Buyukuncu took this route in the mid-90’s.

3 years ago

“The Eastern Michigan women won their 7th-straight conference championship in 2020.”
Nope, Eastern got third. Akron won the championship in 2020 (and a number of years before that, if I recall correctly).
Regardless, congrats to Lainie! Eastern is a great program!

Reply to  dmswim
3 years ago

Thanks for the correction!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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