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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Russell Taking Talents to Lexington

Senior Helped Highlands to Combined Swimming, Diving Crown

Highlands senior swimmer Mac Russell committed to the University of Kentucky a few days ago.

By G. Michael Graham

Off the top of her head, Amanda Johnson could not think of any former swimmer or diver that has gone to the University of Kentucky during her time leading the Highlands Bluebirds swimming and diving teams.

Senior Mac Russell will do that next fall when he just announced his commitment there. He will be right down the road on Interstate 75 so his family can come to his home meets. Lars Jorgensen is the head coach of the Wildcats.

"I know he looked at a lot of different schools all over the country," Johnson said. "He had to find that right fit. It's not just about athletics either. It's academically - what you're going to major in. Also when you go on your visits, you have to meet the team and meet the coaches. If that's where you feel you belong, that's where you belong."

The Wildcats did participate in the Southeast Conference championships at Auburn University's James E. Martin Aquatics Center before the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic ended the season. Kentucky finished third on the women's side out of 12 teams and seventh out of 10 teams on the men's side. But the team has six top-25 finishes since Jorgensen took over in 2014.

The University of Arkansas and Vanderbilt University do not field men's teams. The University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University do not have swimming and diving teams.

UK holds home meets at the Lancaster Aquatic Center. That is where Highlands won the Combined Swimming and Diving state championship last year for the first crown since 1995. The state meet had been held at the University of Louisville for years.

"Out of all the amazing schools that have reached out to me, I feel like UK presents a great opportunity for me to go beyond my limits in swimming and just continue to build me up further into my swimming career," Russell said. "I have to keep pushing myself so when I transition to college, it will be easier for a lack of better terms."

Russell said it is a partial athletic scholarship. He plans to major in Digital Media, which involves film making and photography.

Russell won the 50 Freestyle in 20.63 seconds last year breaking a school record earning All-American consideration. The state record is 19.93 seconds set in 2019 by Trinity's Hunter Tapp. The only other champion in the event came in 1966.

Russell swam a leg of the second-place 400-yard Freestyle Relay team along with seniors Jack Banks, Will Griffith and junior Sam Jones. The finish in three minutes, 10.76 second allowed the Bluebirds to score 34 points and win the Combined title with 205 points.

Russell also took second in the 100 Freestyle in 45.81 seconds. He'd like to win the 50 freestyle again and the 100 this year. He also would not mind breaking the 50 freestyle record.

Russell noted the off-season has been different because of Coronavirus 2019. Swimming pools had been closed a good part of the summer and spring.

"Right now, it's just focusing on getting back to technique," Russell said. "We're still in the beginning stages of getting back to where we left off."

Russell helped the Highlands boys to a state runner-up finish last year with 193 points. The Bluebirds took third in 2019.

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association recently approved start dates for winter sports. Swimming and diving can start Nov. 2 and compete in 14 competitions. There will be no scrimmages this year.

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