By Theresa Ross
On September 23, senior Jack Russell became the first senior to commit to a collegiate team with a verbal commitment from the University of Notre Dame.
Known to the team as one of Seaholm’s best swimmers since his freshman year, Russell has trained tirelessly for the opportunity to swim at a Division I school.
“I’m excited and nervous,” Russell said. “Mostly excited because this is such a great opportunity to continue to become a better swimmer and get a great education.”
Located near South Bend, Indiana, Notre Dame is a Division I school where Russell can continue his already successful swimming career.
Russell is currently ranked first in the state for the 100 breaststroke and third for the 200 individual medley. Some of his greatest accomplishments include a 2009 state victory, a team state championship last year, and a win in the 200 individual medley at states last year.
“I think he will bring his tenacity with him,” senior Evan Burke said. “He will become a solid Division I contender.”
Though the recruitment process started March of junior year for Russell, he has been swimming since he was only seven at Orchard Lake Country Club.
“Jack has always been one of the best swimmers for both his speed and his ability to adapt under pressure,” senior and Orchard Lake Country Club’s teammate Heather Lee said.
According to Russell there has never even been a time when he wanted to quit.
“There were times where my motivation wasn’t too high but I’ve never imagined not swimming,” Russell said.
Russell acknowledged his grandfather as his inspiration.
“He played baseball in college, but flunked out,” Russell said. “He’s always stressed academics and athletics, but how academics come first.”
Swimming at the next level was never a given for Russell and only came sophomore year after performing well at the state meet.
“I’ve been proud to see him grow up so much,” junior and teammate Len Ciemniecki said.
According to Russell, swimming is something he looks forward to everyday.
“It lets me escape the stress of school and other things, even if the practices are really hard,” Russell said.
Hard practices are no stranger to Russell who usually puts in 3 hours a day, or 20 hours a week of work. Russell has worked to overcome obstacles such as staying motivated in the offseason and shoulder issues that spanned his sophomore year.
Motivated by past challenges, Russell has developed an intense work ethic, allowing him to succeed.
“Jack’s a really great swimmer,” teammate Nick Ross said. “In practice it really shows cause he’s always like five seconds ahead of everyone.”
According to Russell it was a result of his motivation, work ethic, and support of family and friends that he was so attractive to potential colleges in the recruitment process. Ohio State, Northwestern, Bucknell, William and Mary, and Brown were also recruiting Russell.
In the end, the decision was decided by the combination of the swim program and academic programs at Notre Dame. Russell looks forward to the intensity of the swim program where he may start training with the team as soon as June.
“He’s always wanted to swim at the next level,” Ross said. “It’s finally nice to see him achieve where he wanted to go.”
Ross and Russell both noted the environment at Notre Dame as well where Russell already has connections through swimmers from the Birmingham area.
“I thought it was really cool how they all hung out with each other and how close they were,” Russell said.
Russell credits the Seaholm swim team with his desire to continue in his swimming career. At Seaholm Russell has excelled in the 200 individual medley and breaststroke, along with being a team captain.
“I’m glad to be his teammate due to the chemistry on this team,” Ross said.
With success at Seaholm in the past, Russell hopes to qualify for NCAAs and get a degree from Notre Dame in finance or political science.
“It’s been an honor to train with him,” Ciemniecki said. “I can’t wait to see what he achieves at Notre Dame.”