Mike Bedell named ‘Athlete of the Year’

BY JOBY FAWCETT, Times-Shamrock Writer

MIKE BEDELL

As Mike Bedell emerged and headed for the home stretch at the District 2 Class AA cross country race, everything seemingly was going to plan.

Then the unthinkable.

He collapsed.

A highly trained, well-conditioned athlete, lying there on the damp terrain of the home course he had dominated throughout his career.

His body, somehow, failing him.

Paramedics and coaches sprinted to his aid, trying to remain calm in a horrifying scene of helplessness.

Soon after, Bedell, the most accomplished runner in the history of the Elk Lake program was lifted into an ambulance. His life at risk.

Remarkably, this near-tragic story had a happy ending. Diagnosed with a circulatory issue, Bedell defied the odds and returned to earn a state medal and lead his team to a state team championship a week later. He would then go on in the spring to one of the most successful track and field seasons, again earning state medals.

And because of the courage and resiliency Bedell displayed, he finishes his career as The Scranton Times-Tribune Male Athlete of the Year.

“This kid always ran with a purpose,” Elk Lake cross country and track and field coach Will Squier said. “After he got through all of the medical issues and he was cleared, he just worked so hard. He’s an amazing kid.”

Throughout the fall, Bedell cruised to win after win during the regular season, leaving course records in his wake.

His desire and dedication pushed him to have few rivals.

Expected to cruise to the district title, his fall and the panic that overtook the meet left more concern for his life rather than his future as a runner.

“As a coach, you watch a kid do everything right to prepare for that day and for success. He was almost machine-like,” Elk Lake assistant coach Marc Weisgold said. “Then to see him go down. His eyes were rolled back, and they were having trouble finding a pulse. It was frightening.

“And all he cared about was if we had won the meet.”

After enduring the medical exams and tests, and his own impatience, Bedell made a triumphant return at the state cross country meet. The emotional lift helped push his teammates to the championship, their second during his career.

In the spring, Bedell’s training intensified. He set the pace in the 1600-meter run, the 800, the 400 and as part of two successful relay teams.

He won four gold medals at the District 2 Class AA track and field championships and a pair of medals at the PIAA championships. Bedell set a school record in the 800 and finished his career with seven PIAA cross country or track and field medals.

And he did so without ever losing perspective.

“He’s just a steady person,” Squier said. “Sometimes you would like to see him maybe get a little more animated. But that’s not Mike. And I think that helped him. He always gave his very best and he just never looked stressed running.

“He just would never let anything bother him.”

Not even the most serious of challenges.