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Senior pursues competition, conditioning amidst COVID-19 ‘shelter-in-place’

Daniel Jessing

ASB student body president and No. 2 player on the FC boys tennis team Braden Bell, ’20, enters his senior season with a goal of winning another Valley championship.

From winning a Valley championship in May 2019 to acting as ASB student body president, Braden Bell, ‘20, has accomplished many victories throughout high school. Whether on the courts or in the classroom, Bell remains involved in nearly every aspect of his scholastic experience. However, despite athletic and academic success, his dreams of another championship may be derailed.

Growing up, Bell participated in a myriad of athletics including t-ball, track, tennis, soccer and volleyball. As an active child, Bell grew up competing alongside his family at the Fig Garden Swim and Racquet Club. Here, he received the opportunity to explore a newfound passion.

Bell’s mother Kimberly Bell recalls the origin of his love for sports and their family’s enjoyment of playing tennis together.

“We have always loved tennis as a family and we joined the Fig Garden Swim and Racquet club in 2007,” Kimberly said. “We have enjoyed playing as a family through the years. Braden would take lessons and be a part of clinics and summer programs growing up but didn’t start competitively until high school. We were so happy to watch him play and grow in his skills.”

The driving force in pursuing tennis came after receiving the opportunity to watch his sister Kylie Insco, ’16, play tennis on the JV team at Bullard High School. Insco competed at Bullard her freshman and sophomore year before transferring to FC in 2014. Insco continues to enjoy cheering Bell on and supporting both of her brothers on the tennis courts.

“Getting to watch my brother play means a part of me gets to relive it,” Insco said. “Getting to go out to the same tennis courts and cheer him on is amazing. It’s funny how while I haven’t played in years, all of the same lingo comes back. I now have two brothers on the tennis team and could not be more proud of their athleticism, sportsmanship and fun-loving spirits.”

Bell decided to officially pursue tennis during his freshman year. Though he had played with his family for many years, Bell chose to play competitively for FC in his first year at the school.

“Well, my parents were definitely a big encouragement in playing,” Braden said. “My sister was especially an encouragement when she played for Bullard. I always thought it was cool to watch her and see how much fun she was having. She definitely had an impact on me and encouraged me to play and get out there.”

Avery Jones | The Feather Online

Bell continued to improve throughout his three years on the team and earned the No. 2 spot on the team’s ladder.

Bell’s brother Landon Bell, ’21, grew up competing alongside Bell and forged a competitive relationship early on.

“Me and Braden both played volleyball, soccer, and tennis together,” Landon said. “Since we’re so close it was kind of like playing with yourself because we were so alike. I’ve had some great memories playing alongside him and of just him playing these sports.”

Starting his fourth year on the team, Bell continues to seek to improve in every aspect of the sport. He views team practices as opportunities to grow physically and spiritually as well as bond with teammates.

“Some of the best memories on this team have been all the practices we’ve done,” Bell said. “Games are always fun but practices are where we really grow. Not just in our skills, but also grow as friends and men of God. My teammates are really supportive of me and it’s always nice to hear them cheering from the sideline, knowing they’re there encouraging me.”

In the following podcast, Braden Bell discusses his favorite memories from his time on the FC boys tennis team.

The countless practices paid off this past season as Bell earned his first Valley championship after the Eagles defeated Caruthers High School, 5-4, May 7, 2019. Bell hopes to relive that feeling by repeating as champions this season.

Avery Jones | The Feather Online

Logan Lewis, ’20, (left) and Braden Bell pose with the championship plaque after defeating Caruthers 5-4, May 7, 2019.

Teammate Mark Pimentel, ’21, has played alongside Bell for three years. He recognizes the commitment and effort put forth in each of Bell’s competitions. Pimentel participated in a 2018 tennis tournament beside him and recalls the encouragement he received.

“I feel like he brings a special aspect to the team,” Pimentel said. “He brings a lot: commitment, help, great effort and great playing. We played together to get to the Valleys doubles tournament. In our first match we lost, but it was still fun to play with him and encourage him and see him be his best.”

Landon appreciates the competition put forth and the ability to play out the season with his brother. He also recognizes their ability to motivate each other as a dangerous pairing.

“It’s been great, I love playing alongside him,” Landon said. “We can either be a power duo or sometimes get in each others heads, but it’s always a good time nonetheless. It’s been an amazing experience and it’s something I’ll look back on and be so grateful for.”

COVID-19 break

Over the past few weeks, the spread of the COVID-19 virus has postponed/canceled several major events around the San Joaquin Valley and the globe. This list includes Central Valley Honor Flights, Big Hat Days, the 67th annual Fresno County Science Fair and several live concerts. California governor Gavin Newsom issued that all gatherings featuring 250 or more people should be cancelled, March 12.

This recommendation came a day after the NBA suspended the regular season following Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert testing positive for the coronavirus. Later the next day, teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive for the virus in a domino effect felt around the sports world. In a 24 hour time period the MLB pushed back opening day, the NHL suspended play, NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments cancelled and the MLS suspended their season until further notice.

Recently, Gov. Newsom warned parents and students alike that schools are unlikely to open in the next few weeks and the closure could carry into summer break.

Newsom and the City of Fresno have gone forward and called for everyone to shelter beginning at 12:01 a.m., March 19. This shelter is projected to run through March 31 and provides for several exceptions to this shelter order.

In the following tweet, The Feather Online responds to the ‘shelter-in-place’ order issued by the City of Fresno.

With three confirmed cases in Fresno County, the CIF State office held an online meeting, March 17. At this meeting, they chose to delay the decision on whether or not to cancel the remainder of the spring sports season.

For the time being, until the current quarantine period wraps up, there are no scheduled games moving forward. In this break, athletes still must seek methods to remain active and maintain conditioning. Up to this point, Bell has focused on achieving this goal for when the return comes. He recognizes this as a frustrating delay in one final tennis season, however the process must be taken day by day.

“During the break I plan on staying active so that I’m ready to go when we head back to school,” Bell said. “One of those ways is running around the neighborhood and also playing tennis with Landon at our local courts. It’s frustrating that our season has been delayed especially because this is my senior year of tennis. I’m thankful for the time I’ve had this year playing, but we just have to take it day by day.”

For another profile, read Megan LeBlanc leads student body in campus sports, activities.

For more articles, read EDITORIAL: Media literacy crucial to Generation Z’s response to global affairs and COLUMN: Senior experiences Dubai from cultural, business perspective.

Kyle Clem can be reached via Twitter: @KyleClem5 and via email.

The following slideshow features images of Braden Bell, ’20, and the various sports he has played during his high school and junior high career.

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