By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Alex and Bella Beard tried to quit swimming once.
It didn’t last.
As 7-year-olds, wanting to be like their older sister, the Beard twins went to Holiday Swim Club.
At their first practice, Bella swam one length of the pool, got out and quit. Alex made it about halfway before she figured out what her sister had done and followed.
Their swimming career was over.
Until the next summer when their dad gave them an ultimatum to give it another shot or enroll in swimming lessons.
“We knew how to swim,” Bella said. “We just didn’t want to do it.”
The twins enjoyed their second stint at Holiday so much that they decided to join a year-round club.
“Were were doing gymnastics and we were really quite bad at it,” Alex said.
“We realized we sucked and then joined swim team.” Bella added.
On the Bearcats, which later became Mid-Valley Aquatics, the Beards swam their first state qualifying times as 9-year-olds.
Bella got her’s first in the 100 breaststroke and then the 50 breaststroke. Not to be outdone, Alex then qualified for state in three events—the 50 breast, 100 breast and 50 free.
“We’re super competitive with each other but with other people I’m always known as the gentle giant because I’m so tall,” Alex said. “I’m really just racing myself.”
“I think I’m much more competitive than Alex is,” Bella said.
That dynamic has worked for the Beard twins, who as 10-year-olds swam in their first sectional meet in Federal Way, Wash. Competing against swimmers from Hawaii and Alaska and east to Montana, they finished seventh in the 200-free relay, despite being seeded 27th.
“I got to swim with my best friends on this relay and we were so excited,” Alex said.
Bella has qualified for sectionals four years in a row. At state, Alex placed fourth in the 500 free when she was 11.
Now as freshmen at McNary, the twins will swim in their first Greater Valley Conference Championships on Feb. 9-10.
With injuries to seniors Marissa Kuch and Sarah Eckert, Alex and Bella have led the Lady Celts this season.
On the gold squad at Mid-Valley Aquatics, with three hour practices a day, they are only able to attend one McNary practice a week.
“That’s been a hard thing getting to know the team,” Alex said. “It’s been really cool how some people look up to me. It’s been cool as a freshman to be able to do that and be on the varsity. My main priority is to always be supportive of the other swimmers. I don’t care how fast they are, as long as they are swimming, they are just as fast as me, in my book. I always want to support people because swimming is such an awesome sport. I think anyone should do it, no matter how fast they are.”
That sportsmanship and humility comes from their father.
“Our dad always taught us to tell the swimmers next to you ‘good luck’ before the race and give them a high five afterwards,” Bella said. “If we beat the other person or even if we lose, we always make sure to congratulate the other people.”
Individually, Bella will swim the 200 free and 100 breaststroke at the GVC Championships while Alex will compete in the 200 IM and 500 free.
Their best times would have been good enough to get them to A Finals (top eight) in all four events at last year’s district meet.
“I think I could be in the top three this year, definitely top five,” Alex said. “I just want to go out there and swim as hard as I can and have fun.”
They’ll also swim on McNary’s 200 free and 200 medley relay teams.
“It’s just huge having two swimmers where you can put them in pretty much any event and they’re probably going to win, and if not, be real close,” McNary head coach Casey Lewin said. “It helps the relays out, too, with their versatility. Aside from Marissa (Kuch), they are some of the strongest freshmen I’ve had in my seven years of high school coaching. Hopefully in the next four years they’ll continue to grow and progress and get faster and faster. I’m excited where they are going to be in four years.”
The twins want to break records during their high school career.
Alex’s PR in the 200 IM is 2:24.66 and 5:35.58 in the 500 free. Bella’s best times are 1:13 in the 100 breast and 2:08 in the 200 free.
McNary school records are 2:10.86 in the 200 IM, 5:18.32 in the 500 free, 1:08.80 in the 100 breast and 1:53.75 in the 200 free.
Since they were 9, Alex and Bella have swam year-round with only three weeks off in August.
“It takes up all of my time. I wouldn’t do anything else,” said Alex, who along with Bella, has played a year of water polo. They also maintain a 4.0 GPA.
Both girls want to swim in college.
Not bad for two kids who quit during their first practice.