Bridger Bell has been appointed the Columbus North varsity swimming coach for the 2015-16 season, athletic director Jeff Hester announced Tuesday (June 2).
Bell, 32, who coached last season as an assistant at Johns Hopkins University and as head coach at St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, Md., will guide both the Bull Frogs’ high school program and the Donner Swim Club program in his new position in Columbus. Previously, Bell was an assistant for five years to Pete Higgins at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, where the program’s boys and girls teams each won Georgia high school state championships. In Columbus, Bell will take over for former coach Jim Sheridan at CNHS and with DSC.
“I’m excited to accept the position in Columbus because both the high school and club teams have a great reputation thanks to Coach Sheridan’s work over the years. In addition, the Columbus community has excellent facilities and excellent swimmers. I get excited about working with fast swimmers, helping them get faster and helping them reach their goals.”
Hester said he is pleased to add Bell as the Bull Frogs’ coach.
“I am delighted to be able to bring Bridger on board as our new swimming coach,” Hester said. “It is not often that a high school program is able to secure a coach with such an extensive background at a variety of levels. The way he will be able to teach and share his experiences to our athletes separated him from other candidates.”
A Texas native, Bell was raised in the Austin area and swam for Texas Aquatics, Texas Gold, Circle C Swimming and Longhorn Aquatics. He then attended the University of Houston and swam as a practice partner for athletes on the UH women’s teams for coach Mark Taylor. In addition, Bell also was an athlete and coach for the Cougar Swim Club.
Bell later was a swimming instructor at the University of Virginia, where he also swam for and was vice president of the Virginia Club Swimming while earning his master’s degree. He also has worked Virginia Swim Camps for coach Mark Bernardino.
In addition, Bell also served for six years as the national director of Collegiate Club Swimming for the American Swimming Association, presiding over its growth from four teams to 68 teams across the country. By the end of his tenure, the group was holding more than 40 regular-season meets, seven regional championships and a national championship each season.
A competitive swimmer all his life, Bell has been a U.S. Masters Swimming national champion and a USMS All-American in the 2-mile cable swim.
Bell takes over the Columbus positions at CNHS and DSC from Sheridan, who held both positions for the past 21 seasons. Over the years, CN boys swimming has produced 10 state championship teams and 31 top-five finishes while the CN girls have garnered one team state crown and 14 top-five finishes. In 2014-15, the boys had one state champion (Michael Brinegar) and placed 16th at state while the girls had five top-eight finishes at state en route to a sixth-place team finish.
The Columbus North program expects more than 30 boys (including record-holders in two individual events) and more than 30 girls (including record-holders in three individual events) to return for the 2015-16 season. CNHS features the Charles “Chick” Newell Natatorium, an eight-lane 25 meter pool with a moveable bulkhead that adjusts to 25 yards as well as a full-size separate diving well with two 1-meter boards and one 3-meter board.
The Donner Swim Club was formed in 1948 and is one of Indiana oldest and most successful clubs. DSC swimmers are competitive nationally in the pool as well as in open water. The Club currently has qualifiers for the USA Swimming Junior National Team, 2016 USA Swimming Olympic Trials and 2016 USA Swimming Open Water.
DSC serves more than 250 swimmers utilizing two indoor natatoriums and an outdoor Olympic-sized pool. The club also uses the CNHS facility and the Northside Middle School pool (a six-lane, 25-yard facility) for some of its events.
Bell said his impression of the Columbus community has been enhanced by the hiring process.
“What led me to pursue this position and ultimately accept it is how incredibly welcoming everyone has been,” Bell said. “The club team and the high school team are so intertwined, and there is strong community support behind both. That makes this a highly attractive situation.”
Swimming news courtesy of Columbus North varsity swimming.