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Watertown’s Russell takes best shot at states

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A purple trash barrel marks 170 feet from the throwers’ circle behind Watertown High School.

The garbage can was purposely placed so discus-thrower Andrew Russell could have a target to aim for during practice.

Russell has thrown 170 feet several times in practice, a distance that would shatter the school record and assure him a medal at state competition.

“I’ve been throwing it, I know I can do it,” Russell said. “But it doesn’t mean anything until you get to a meet.”

The Watertown senior will receive his final opportunities to shine for the Cyclones during the state track and field meet Friday and Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse high school in Cicero.

“He’s got more in the tank,” Watertown coach Paul Gaede said. “He’s been throwing very well this week.”

Russell is seeded sixth among public high schools and eighth overall in Division I. His career-best throw of 158 feet, 10 inches was registered at a dual meet with Altmar-Parish-Williamstown early last month. He needs to throw 1 feet farther to surpass Ian Cannan’s school mark of 160-4, set in 1997.

“I’d love to have it, but the record is not my main goal,” Russell said. “My main goal is to do my best, and if it comes, it comes. Hopefully I’ll throw a little bit further at states and place really well.”

Russell is the reigning Frontier League and Section 3 overall champion in the discus and is undefeated in that event this season. Last year at the league meet Russell finished second to Louis Kendall, a 2011 South Jefferson graduate, who won the Division II state title in the discus with a throw of 153-7.

When Russell joined the track and field team as a freshman, Gaede pegged him for the shot put and discus right away because of his size.

“Coach Gaede took one look at me and said, ‘You’re going to be a thrower,’” Russell said.

Russell, also a football lineman, now stands 6-feet-4 at 250 pounds.

“Size helps,” Russell said. “It helps me to get across the circle faster, and a longer wing span helps to release the disc better.”

Russell ran the 200-meter dash several times this season and contributed to the 400 relay for the Cyclones.

“One thing that he does do is run well, also,” Gaede said. “He’s a big kid who has the strength, and he also has speed which helps him in throwing as far as the spinning rotation.”

Russell anchored Watertown’s winning 400-meter throwers’ relay, a non-scoring event, at the league championship meet.

“Speed in discus throwing is very, very key, along with foot placement,” Russell said. “You get those two down with the release and you’re golden.”

Russell’s routine before he releases the disc is to rotate back five times and tap his left foot against the throwers’ ring twice.

“Since I’ve been doing it I’ve been throwing well,” Russell said. “I feel like if I didn’t do that I would mess up a lot, so I try to do it and it helps me focus myself.”

One of Russell’s favorite moments occurred at the South Jefferson Invitational on May 12 when he threw 157-5 to break the meet record held by Derek McGuire, a former Immaculate Heart Central standout. McGuire won state titles in the shot put and discus in 2003-04.

Watertown senior Michael Lopresti, who convinced Russell to join the track and field team their freshman year, qualified for states in the pole vault.

“It is really, really crazy to think about,” Russell said. “It was really emotional for both of us because it had been a goal, and we had been shorted the past years, and it’s just a big accomplishment for both of us.”

Lopresti is seeded 15th in Division I at a height of 13 feet. Other local boys who are potential medalists include Indian River seniors Rayshan Clark and Will Moran. Clark is ranked fourth in the Division I long jump, and Moran is seeded eighth in the pentathlon. Harvey Smith of Malone is ninth in the 400.

In Division II, Sam Anderson of South Lewis is ranked fifth in the 3,000 steeplechase. Alex Wood of Ogdensburg Free Academy is seeded seventh in the 800, while teammate Nick Crawford is ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, in the 110 and 400 hurdles.

The top-seeded local girls include South Jefferson freshman Skylar Pastor, who will defend her title in the 400. She is seeded third in Division II with a time of 57.40 seconds. She captured the crown in 57.02 last year.

Freshman Kylee Bartlett of Altmar-Parish-Williamstown is seeded second in the Division II pentathlon. Sophomore Laura Pierce of Canton is ranked fifth in the 1,500 and will run on Canton’s 3,200 relay, which is seeded seventh. Victoria Campanian of South Lewis is seeded seventh in the 2,000 steeplechase, while teammate Sara Young is ranked eighth in the pole vault. Katie Marcellus of Madrid-Waddington is seventh in the discus for Division II.

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