The Patrick Bell Award
An annual award presented by the Bell Family
honoring the youngest finisher of The Greenfield Triathlon
||Michael Bell, Patrick’s younger brother
“We triathletes …,” began 13 year old Patrick Bell at the family dinner table in the summer of 1995. He dismissed his older sibling’s retort, “but you’ve never done a triathlon…” with a snappy “but I’m gonna.” On that rainy August morning the optimistic youth trekked to the Green River to begin a joyful relationship with the sport of triathlon until his untimely death at age 23.
The idea of triathlon was suggested to Patrick by Cindy Mansur, who was looking to round out a team for her sons, Ethan and Seth. But on his first outing, Patrick was going it alone. Walking across the soggy field between numbering and transition, he was in awe of the spectacle. He was hooked. It was on the bike course of that first outing that he learned of the most important aspect of the sport, the camaraderie between competitors. Patrick finished at the bottom of the 29 and under age group that year. “Boy those people were really nice to me on the course.” He remarked. Racers gave him words of encouragement as they passed him on the course.
The next year, Patrick rode a borrowed road bike in need of some serious mechanical attention. Following the race he was congratulated by Ken Kuninski. At the end of the conversation Ken inquired about the bike. Hefting the bike, Ken declared it to be a “lead sled” and walked away with a curious look on his face. The next morning Ken showed up in the Bell’s driveway with a gift of a proper road bike. All his life, people were taken by Patrick’s cheerful determination. The following year, after the race, when asked if his fellow athletes still encouraged him on the road, Patrick thought for a moment and said, “only three people passed me.”
In his High School years at Deerfield Academy, Patrick encouraged his classmates to participate in the Greenfield Tri. Cycling at Deerfield, Patrick was introduced to Bob Perry who became both mentor and friend. During those years the number of young athletes crashing at the Bell house on Triathlon eve began to grow. During his college years, as Patrick’s triathlon world expanded from Cape Cod to Vermont to Lake Placid, Greenfield remained his favorite event. Year after year we would see more competitors from those venues give Greenfield a whirl as a result of his recommendation.
Patrick’s love of triathlon, especially the Greenfield Tri, inspired his cousin Colin Wilson and youngest brother Michael to participate. Michael was the youngest sprint competitor in 2004. Following Patrick’s death in 2005, the Greenfield Triathlon that year was dedicated to his memory. All three of Patrick’s siblings, Becca, Peter and Michael, along with scores of friends from around New England entered the Greenfield Tri. One respectable contingent from Central Massachusetts (including the Minuteman Road Club) arrived sporting black arm bands bearing the letters PB [See http://www.patbelltt.com for more about Patrick Bell].
The following year, 2006, saw the placement of a new bench near the transition area in Patrick’s memory. The bench was dedicated on Triathlon weekend by Win Whitcomb on behalf of the Cyclonauts Racers, who donated it. The Bell siblings participated again, along with 16 year old cousin, Rob. That year also saw Patrick’s Uncle Charlie Bell, then 51, make his annual trek from North Carolina to Greenfield, no longer as spectator but as a competitor. Charlie’s bride, Linda, followed him in transition from sidelines to finish line in 2007. They will both be racing again this year.