October 16, 2000
Bell Rings True In the Midst of Change
from Hoosier Scene Magazine: October 2000 Issue
by: Brooke Nash
In the span from 1998 to 1999, while transitioning from her first to second year as Head Coach of Indiana Women's Cross Country, Judy Bogenschutz took a seat in national prospect Amanda Bell's living room looking for a change. She found the key to her program's turnaround in the character of Bell.
"As the Indiana State Cross Country Champion her senior year of high school, her signing and subsequent performance as a freshman attracted a strong class of talent," reflected Coach Bogenschutz.
Bell wasted no time in grasping the reigns, finishing first for the Hoosiers in every race in which she competed, rising to All-Big Ten status, and leading her team to its highest Big Ten standing since 1994.
"I have never been afraid of change. Ever since my freshman year of high school when I started beating veteran runners, I decided that I wanted to do something," says Bell.
Those wishes extend to the University and permeate her teammates' performances.
"In deciding to come here, of course, I like coach. She has a good sense of humor," Bell laughs. "Yet, if my coming here and running well would bring recruits and build the program even after I'm gone, then the big picture in my mind would become reality. I never want to see this team sucked into mediocrity. I know that we have a lot of talent and that we can go places with that. I just try to lead everyone to reach our potential."
Yet, not all change that Bell has encountered in her career has been positive. In the 2000 Outdoor Track season, Bell was sidelined and forced to redshirt on account of the development of a stress fracture. However, her innate ability to adapt quickly to change, whether positive or negative, overcame her initial discouragement. Now, she utilizes the experience to drive her sophomore cross country season.
"It's in my mind because I know how I felt when I was cross-training. All I was thinking about was the goals that I was making for cross country season. I already knew what I wanted to do. It gave my legs time to rest and this entire summer was just a process of building up to what I want to get back by the end of the season," Bell said.
Bell is an athlete who, on one hand, has been familiar throughout her racing career with winning individual titles and awards while guiding team accomplishments. On the other hand, a vivid memory remains of not only the 1999 cross country squad's failing to qualify as a team for the NCAA Championships, which took place on Indiana's home course, but also her missing individual qualification by five places at the Great Lakes Regional Championship. Imagining the goal Bell has in mind for both her team and herself is not difficult.
"That is a big sore spot," Bell reminisces. "That is part of what drove me in training this summer. I know I should have been in that race last year. I want the whole team to go and experience it because as soon as we all get there then we can tell the arriving freshmen what it's like. We really need to get those experiences under our belt so that we'll be able to help the team next year."
With her average improvement of 15 seconds in the opening two meets of the season, Bell has made a statement through her actions that she is stronger and faster in 2000. Whether or not her mental strength and ability to concentrate has also improved will soon be tested against a newly imposed factor of change facing all female Division I collegiate distance runners this season: the NCAA Championship distance moving from 5K (3.1 miles) to 6K (3.7 miles). Thus, the Pre-NCAA meet and multiple meets throughout the season, excluding the Big Ten Championship, have bumped up in length.
Yet, as always, Bell absorbs change and molds it to her benefit. "My initial reaction was excitement because I can adapt to whatever I race whether it be the 10K, the 3K, or the mile. I just think that I can concentrate better than others out there. It is a strength for me and I'm using it to my advantage. I can't wait to race it," Bell smiles.
On that first visit to Amanda Bell's home, what Head Coach Judy Bogenschutz saw in the eyes looking back at her is what Bell has proven herself to be: an athlete not afraid to face nor bring about change. Change for Bell has emerged in various extremes ranging from her rising to collegiate competitiveness, to helping advance her team into the national spotlight, to transforming her outward appearance. Yet, before dismissing her tattoo or change of hair color as mere fad, remember what is deeper inside the heart of this phenomenal athlete.