Vision boards serve as a visual reminder of a person’s goals and what they want to achieve in the future. It is unusual to find middle school and even high school students who have created vision boards for themselves.
That’s not the case for Benjamyn and Isabella Daily, who each started running track at five years old in the Pee Wee Division of Sacred Heart CYO in Havertown. Their vision boards have helped them stay focused on their running goals and aspirations.
This brother-sister duo has competed in local and national track meets across the country, including Junior Olympics. Bella usually runs distance races. In the mile she is the top middle school runner in Pennsylvania and second in the country for sixth graders. Her personal best time for that distance is 5:26.
A sixth grader at the Academy of Notre Dame, Bella is a member of the track team at her school and with the Delco United Track Club. Ben, a sophomore at Archbishop Carroll High School, is on the track team there and is also a member of the Delco United Track Club.
Ben puts his race medals and bibs on his vision board, along with motivational messages. “When I see my medals that keeps me pushing toward becoming a better runner,” Ben said. “Each year I want to get better, so I put my times from last year on the board, and I want to improve them this year.”
Olympic sprinters Usain Bolt, Noah Lyles, and Michael Norman are some of Ben’s favorite runners. “I look up to a lot of Jamaican athletes because they do my events, the 200 and 400,” he said. “I look up to Noah Lyles, too, because he’s amazing at the 200, and this past summer he set the American record of 19.31 seconds for that distance.”
Bella’s board is filled with her All-American badges, a photo of Usain Bolt, and an image of the Olympic rings.
The Olympic graphic serves as motivation for Bella’s primary focus: becoming an Olympic athlete.
“My ultimate goal is to be an Olympian,” Bella said. “I’m going to try to go to the Olympic Trials in 2028.”
To compete in the trials, Bella will need to meet the Olympic standards. “For the 800, if she gets down to 2:01 in high school, she’ll be invited to the Olympic trials to try to make the Olympic team,” said Ben, who has an encyclopedic-like knowledge of race times, including his little sister’s.
Bella’s current personal best record for 800 meters? An impressive time of 2:24.
Their passion for running started with Sacred Heart CYO, which helped launch their track careers. “CYO track started all [of] this for us, and if we didn’t have CYO track, we wouldn’t be here right now,” Ben said. “We’re very thankful for that experience.”
The 2012 Summer Olympics inspired Ben to start running track. “Ever since I watched Usain Bolt, I always knew that I wanted to be like him when I grew up,” Ben said.
Big brother led the way and served as a role model for Bella. “I followed my brother, so that’s how I started running,” she added.
While they both run individual events Ben and Bella also enjoy being part of a relay team. “I love them because I like being with my team, and it’s just fun to do,” Bella said. “There’s less pressure than doing your regular races.”
“There’s a lot of team bonding, too, with the relays,” added Ben who recently ran the 200-meter leg in a sprint medley (200x200x400x800) at the Adidas Indoor Nationals in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
While Bella’s big brother favors sprint races, she has focused on running longer distances. “I used to only like the 800 (meters), but now that I do the mile, I like the mile now,” Bella said. “I still love the 800, but now that I’m doing the mile and the 1,500, I like them better.”
Competing in national track meets has given Ben and Bella the opportunity to meet runners from across the country as well as Olympic athletes.
The national meets are “special for me because I get to see all the Olympians,” Ben said. “We got to see Trayvon Bromell, Sydney McLaughlin, Emma Coburn, and Grant Holloway.”
“It’s been such a good experience for me because I didn’t know I was going to go this far,” said Bella who started running in national meets at nine years old. “Just seeing that I’m making the standards for running has been a really good experience.”
Competing against older runners didn’t intimidate Bella when she began running at national meets.
“I knew they would be faster than me because they’re older than me,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to go out there and try my best and try to beat them,’ and I beat a lot of them, so I was proud of myself for doing that.”
“At indoors this year she’s had the opportunity, because she’s so good, to compete against college women in races,” said Greg Meyers, coach of the Delco United Track Club. “She placed in the middle of the pack which is fantastic. With the times she is running now, the only time she’ll have any competition is at the national championships.”
Bella’s success hasn’t surprised Coach Meyers. “Bella is a happy-go-lucky kid and just wants to compete, but when she gets on the (starting) line, she’s tenacious,” said Meyers, who is a member of St. Dorothy Parish in Drexel Hill. “Watch out toward the end of the race because if she’s anywhere near (the front), she’s going to win.”
Regarding Bella’s Olympic aspirations, Meyers said, “She is on the right track to get there. As long as she continues to hit the milestones she’s hitting now, she’s going to be right there in the conversation.”
During the year Ben and Bella compete in about six indoor meets and 10 outdoor meets. To train for these meets, Ben runs approximately 36 miles a week, and Bella runs 15 to 20 miles. They also work out a few times a week at the Haverford YMCA.
Bella’s initial success with running surprised her older brother. “I always knew she was faster because she used to go out there and beat a lot of people,” Ben said. “When she started training and was running a 1:06 for the 400 at 10 years old, that really shocked me because that was my personal best when I was in eighth grade.”
Bella also is surprised by how well she has performed in track events, but her success is the result of the effort she puts into her training. “I work really hard for it,” Bella said.
Ben is proud of Bella’s success and helps her while training and competing in races. “I try to push her to the ultimate limits because I know she has so much potential,” Ben said. “I just try to push her each and every day.”
Bella appreciates the support that Ben gives her. “He’s like my second coach,” she said. “During my races he yells my splits, and during my practices, he tells me my splits, and he lets me know when I need to pick up the pace.”
Their faith also has been an integral part of preparing for races.
“I pray every time before my races, and before my four by eight in the Adidas Nationals, all my teammates held hands, and we said a prayer together that we would do the best we can,” Bella said.
“I try to envision my race and get off to a good start,” Ben said. “Then I pray to God to give me a good race and help me do the best that I can.”
Tom Sexton, their track coach at Sacred Heart, is proud of what Bella and Ben have achieved as track athletes.
“Ben and Bella are very talented athletes and have been a big part of our success while they were in our program,” Sexton said. “Besides their athletic ability they are both wonderful children, respectful, and great teammates. I am very proud of both of them and look forward to seeing what they accomplish in the coming years.”
“Their level of commitment is on par with the level of their success,” Meyers added. “They are two fantastic kids, and their future is very bright, as their commitment and dedication has already shown.”
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