By AmyAnn Rupp
For the second time this season BYU senior diver Aaron Russell has been named the Mountain West Conference Diver of the Week.
Russell, a Provo, Utah native, swept both diving events, winning the 1-meter and 3-meter boards at the BYU Diving Invitational that saw divers from Colorado State, Utah, and UNLV come to compete in the two-day event.
The two-time All-American is undefeated in competition this season, winning both diving events at all three of the Cougars meets this season, including a victory over Florida State”s All-American diver Louie Gagnet.
“That was a high-level contest,” said BYU diving coach Keith Russell, who is also Aaron”s father, in reference to his son”s win over Gagnet. “It was a well earned victory for Aaron.”
Russell, who is expected to win the MWC Championship, has posted the best diving scores in the conference this season.
As a senior on the BYU men”s swimming and diving team has one last chance to achieve his goals.
Russell is already the MWC record holder for the 1-M springboard and the former record holder for the 3-M springboard. He has been the MWC champion in both the 1- and 3-M events and last year he was the MWC runner-up in those events where he also placed third in the platform.
His most recent accolade came last summer when he placed in the top eight at U.S. Diving Nationals. Russell is a two-time second team All-American and has been an Academic All-American all three years he has been at BYU.
What more is there to achieve?
“I would really like to be first team All-American on the three meter and break the school record,” Russell said. “I have already been second-team All-American on the one meter so I believe that I can make the first team for three meters.”
Russell needs another forty points on top of his highest score to break the record set by Nathan Cook in 1996 of 612.40 points.
Those who know Aaron best believe he can and will achieve his goal this year.
“Over the summer the U.S. Diving Nationals where Aaron competed against collegiate and post collegiate divers, he finished in the top eight where the first team All-Americans would be,” Coach Russell said. “That showed that he can meet his goal, he just now has to do it.”
Aaron sets such lofty goals for himself as a means of motivation for diving he said.
“I want to be as good as I can get,” Russell said. “It is a continual challenge to me that I enjoy. Yeah it is going to be tough to achieve these goals, but if you don”t have something to shoot for or compare yourself against and if you don”t try then you are definitely not going to achieve what you want.”
This year holds more meaning for him, Russell said. As a senior it is his last chance to compete for BYU.
“I began long ago when I was about five,” Russell said. “My dad inspired it and I have just done it. I know I can achieve this goal now if I just work hard.”
Russell has had a unique athletic career. Unlike most athletes at BYU, his father has been his coach since he began diving for parks and recreation in Mesa, Ariz.
Out growing parks and recreation Russell began to dive with a Mesa club diving team his father formed. Upon moving to Utah when Coach Russell began his career at BYU, Aaron continued to dive in club teams and for Timpview High School.
“That just progressed me right onto college,” Russell said. “I was sure that I could get a scholarship after awhile of being in this sport and so I stuck to it.”
The thing that scared Russell the most was not the actual diving off boards 10-feet in the air, but rather the Speedos.
“Yeah I was a little bit scared to dive when I first started,” Russell said. “But I was more scared of a Speedo. I hate to wear them. To me that truly is the scariest part of anything.”
Russell”s father, Keith, has been a continual support to the All-American.
“Maybe for some people it would stress them out to have their dad as a coach,” Russell said. “For me, I used to feel that pressure to measure up to my Dad”s standards but that was always because we had different levels.”
Coach Russell is one of only two divers from BYU to earn first-team All-American honors. He won the 1968 NCAA 3-M championships and was a part of the 1968 U.S. Olympic diving team.
“My dad was way greater in diving then I could ever be,” Russell said. “But I have realized that I am at a different level. I have found my niche in the sport. I am just trying to stretch myself as far as I can. I really like diving with him because he lets me do my own thing. He asks me what my goals are and then we work on them together.”
Russell said that the best part of the team is his dad as a coach and the team.
“I love working with the team,” Russell said. “To see them working hard definitely inspires me to do better.”