Nov. 8, 2007
You may not have noticed it, but Missouri cross country senior is having the best season of his career; and if you talk to the quiet and mild-mannered, Bell, he can't even explain why.
"I don't really know why. The last two summers before this summer were really strong, and I thought I'd have better seasons. This year my summer wasn't what I thought it would be, I just kind of took it easy everyday." Bell said. "I think I just came in a little fresher, maybe the last few years just started to pay off, I'm not exactly sure, it's just been consistent hard work over a long college career."
All of that hard work finally started paying off for Bell on Sept. 8, at the Missouri Cross Country Challenge. The Missouri Men's team finished first, second, third, and fourth that day, all coming in right in a row, but it was Bell who got the victory. "We just ran as a pack and they gave me the nod." Bell said.
Giving Bell the nod, the team pushed him across the finish line. "I didn't want to take it, I felt like those guys, if they had gone harder could probably have beat me, but they just knew this was my last year and wanted to give me credit," Bell said. "Last year I pushed a few of them across, so they just did me a favor."
Since getting that extra shove from his teammates on Sept. 8, Bell finished in the top three on the team at the Roy Griak Invitational, and seventh overall at the Bradley Classic in Peoria, while setting a personal best time of 25:03. That's good news, considering this year's upcoming regional takes the Tigers back to the same course in central Illinois.
"Bradley was fun, to go out and win that meet. I don't know if we've ever won, other than a home meet, since I've been here. Pretty much everyone on our team had a PR [personal record]. I'm just looking forward to Regionals." Bell said.
Bell's setting PR's because of a change in his workout regimen as well as a newfound confidence.
"I worked on a lot of flexibility stuff with our trainer, some of the new stuff we did in the weight room to have a stronger core and stability." Bell said. "Once the workouts started going well, I definitely became more confident. I had a good race at Griak, I think I improved like 80 places from last year and almost a minute faster, so I got a lot of confidence off of that going into the last few meets."
Even though Bell's a senior, he doesn't feel the pressure to be a leader. This team runs as one, running together and pushing each other across the finish line. "There's not a set leader, we're all close in our age group, we all hang out together and the entire junior or senior class leads everyone." Bell said. "I like it that way, there's not one person that's better than everyone."
The family that runs together, stays together, and Bell couldn't imagine spending time with anyone else.
"I'm from St. Louis and I know a lot of people here and I'd have a chance to hang out with other people outside the team, but I choose to hang out with people on the team because they've become my best friends." Bell said. "I'm gonna miss everyone on the team, I love cross country, you can go out and run races on your own, but this is the last time I'll have a team to run with, and that means a lot."
For Billy Bell, running cross country at Mizzou isn't a reason for a scholarship. It's not a job, occupation or an obligation; it's a lifestyle. And that lifestyle is something he plans to continue, long after his teammates part ways and he stops wearing black and gold.
"I'll keep running, I want to train for some marathons. Hopefully I'll be around Columbia next year, I still have another year of track left, I'm not sure if I'm going to use it or not, but I'm still going to be running, do it for fun, see what I can do on my own."
Doing things on his own will be different for the breakout star; he's finally finding his groove as a senior, but his talent has been valued on the team for four years. Bell will always run, but he may not always have teammates to push him across the finish line.
-Josh Fowler- Media Relations Student Assistant