COOS BAY — When Sandra Bullock first became coach of the Southwestern Oregon Community College swim team seven years ago, one of the first local swimmers she noticed was Bella Jones.
“I remember when I first started coaching, I said I was going to have her on my team one day,” Bullock said.
That predication has become a reality, with Jones committing to joining SWOCC’s program.
“I’m pretty stoked,” Jones said before a signing ceremony last week celebrating her commitment to joining the Lakers.
Jones celebrated with her teammates and coaches at Mingus Park, where she spent her senior season swimming with both the North Bend squad she had as teammates throughout high school and her adopted Marshfield team that makes Mingus Park its home.
Jones had a stellar career with North Bend, even her senior season when she was coming back from a serious knee injury only a few months earlier during a soccer match.
But she reflected back to much earlier days as she traced the roots of her love for the sport.
“I would like to thank my family because they got me into the sport,” she said, referring to her grandparents who raised her and insisted she learn how to swim because of all the water in the Bay Area.
“I would like to thank my teammates — they pushed me every day — and my coaches.”
Three of those coaches — past, present and future — all spoke fondly of Jones.
“This is a great opportunity for Bella to continue her education at the college level and continue to participate in the sport that she loves,” said Chris Richmond, who coached Jones when she was developing into a standout for the South Coast Aquatic Team.
“She always practiced and trained like a champion and competed like a champion. She is going to continue that.”
While Richmond coached Jones for years, longtime Marshfield coach Kathe McNutt only got to work with her a few months.
“I’ve never coached Bella until this last spring,” she said, adding that Jones is both the life of the pool and also a great inspiration.
“I am proud of her for coming back (from the injury) and working so hard,” McNutt said. “She has a great attitude. She’s a great competitor and a great teammate. I think she has a great future in swimming.”
Bullock, meanwhile, can’t wait to have Jones join the Lakers.
“We are stoked to have Bella represent Coos Bay and North Bend on the team,” she said. “We have a really good women’s team coming. We will use her in and out of the pool as a leader.”
Jones said SWOCC was a good fit.
“Everyone is close together (on the team),” she said. “I like the idea of a family dynamic.
“I also like that it’s here on the coast.”
Jones plans to transfer to a four-year school in two years and pursue a degree in criminal justice, with the eventual goal of being a private investigator.