Pearland's Bellina captures gold at state swim meet

PEARLAND — They say that it isn't how you start but how you finish. Such was the case for Pearland sophomore swimmer Jaden Bellina who brought home the first gold medal in school history for the Lady Oilers at the UIL state swim meet held at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.

In 2008, Pearland's Sam Decker won a silver medal in the 1-meter diving event as a junior and then captured gold in 2009 by winning the same event as the only boy to medal at state for the Oilers.

Bellina captured first place in the 200-yard IM with a winning time of 2:01.99. Her preliminary time the previous day was 2:04.60 leaving her in fifth place for the finals and in the seventh lane.

The top three times are positioned in the center of the swimming pool in lanes 3, 4, and 5 leaving Bellina on the outside. Most people don't pay attention to the swimmers on the outside lanes as contenders for the top three medals.

However, someone forgot to tell the young sophomore at her first state swim meet. Bellina qualified for state after winning the district and regional titles in this event.

The top qualifying time was 2:02.76 so making up more than two seconds in the water is quite a challenge.

"Swimming on the outside probably helped me because the girls in the middle of the pool couldn't see me, and that gave me a bit of an edge," Bellina said. "I'm just floored that I was able to win."

Win she did to the thrill of the crowd as all eyes were on her taking command of the race from the outside.

"Jaden is such a team player. She enjoys her sport," said Pearland head coach Chris Roberts. "I can’t wait to see where she leads the team next year."

Bellina scored 36 team points for the Lady Oilers as she also place third in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 55.22. She got 20 points for her 200-yard IM victory.

Pearland finished at a team in 14th place with 49 points as coach Roberts had two other girls who also qualified for the state meet. There were 61 Class 6A team who competed for the state title which was won by Austin Westlake (221 points).

Senior Madison Eaker qualified in the 500-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke. Eaker finished 10th in the 500-yard free (5:03.28) for seven points and she finished 14th in the 100-yard back (58.32) for three points.

"Madison is a student/athlete that everyone loves," said Roberts. "She is one of the hardest working athletes that I have ever met. I can’t wait to watch her swim in college. Still waiting for her to make a choice."

Freshman Gillian Pratt also made the trip to state to compete in the 1-meter diving. She scored 356.20 points leaving her in 14th place and three team points.

"For being a freshman, Gillian acts like she has been doing this sport for along time," Roberts said. "She is a hard worker."

With two young competitors, Pearland should continue to build on the outstanding coaching job by Roberts.

" The Pearland swim team has come a long ways," Roberts said. "Nothing like training at the YMCA outdoor pool. We now have one of the best pools (Pearland Natatorium) in the area. I am so blessed to have such a great program."