Russo keeps Wildkits ready
Evanston's Christian Stankovic competes in the 200-yard freestyle at the Evanston Invitational on Saturday. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:22AM
EVANSTON — Only a junior, Chris Russo already is a leader on Evanston’s swim team.
As a three-year varsity member, he realizes the responsibilities that come with that role, and he’s been more than capable of carrying the burden this season.
“I like it,” he said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s fun, too. I like inspiring the team in some way, to make sure everybody is ready for the races.”
Funny he should say that.
In the opening event Saturday at the Evanston Invitational, Russo lost track of his stroke as the anchor leg of the 200-yard medley relay and dove into the pool ready for the butterfly. He quickly recognized his mistake, switched to freestyle, and helped the Wildkits take sixth in 1 minute, 42.69 seconds.
“I just forgot,” Russo laughed. “I’ve never done that before.”
Evanston coach Kevin Auger was surprised Russo admitted that. But it showed Russo isn’t afraid to own up to an error.
“It’s been nice to see him come into this own,” said Auger, whose club placed ninth in the 18-team field. “He was basically thrown into being a leader, but he seems to like it. He has that type of personality. He’s someone the kids want to follow.”
Russo shined in his two individual events Saturday, taking third in the 50 free (22.16) and fourth in the 100 free (50.05).
“I was really happy with those times and races,” he said. “The training over the break was hard, so I was not expecting to do my best times. But I am where I should be.”
“He’s progressing quite well,” the coach said. “He’s on track to do even better than last year. He’s ready to take that next step.”
Russo swam at the state meet for the first time as a sophomore. He qualified for both the 50 free and 100 free, but he failed to advance to the second-day finals.
Where Russo might be most valuable to the Wildkits is on the relays. Auger said he still is sorting out where Russo best fits.
“Any relay that doesn’t include Chris won’t be as good,” Auger said. “He’s the difference-maker in all of them.”