Inclusive, positive, hard working and competitive; these are just some of the words that community members have used to describe Taft High School senior Savannah Russo.
As a multi-sport athlete, Russo is wrapping up her high school sports career this coming weekend at the OSAA State Championships at Mt. Hood Community College. Russo’s main events in track are the 300 hurdles and the javelin. Last week at the district track meet in Dayton, Russo had an all-time best throw during her four years with a 112-0 toss in the javelin, which was good enough to land her a wild card spot at the big event this coming weekend.
Russo was a star on the volleyball and basketball courts, earning numerous all-league and team Most Valuable Player awards throughout the years, and that versatility has translated well to track and field, where she has competed in a variety of events.
“This year I mainly did 300 hurdles,” Russo said. “But throughout my four years I’ve done the 100, 200 meter races, 4x100 relay and a bunch of others. But javelin is definitely my favorite.”
Her success in the javelin hasn’t come by accident. Russo has put in many hours in the weight room and in practice, perfecting her throws. And for her, a lot of it was self-taught.
“Most of the time I had to work on it individually,” Russo said. “This is the first year we’ve had a javelin specific coach so I hadn’t been getting that extra coaching like a lot of other schools have. You have to be more self-reliant at smaller schools.”
A love for the game
Although she was been a bright spot for Taft in track and field, Russo said her favorite sport is actually basketball. On the court, Russo was a standout guard who could score and defend with some of the best in the state. She said she has had a passion for the game for a long time.
“I just like how fast paced it is and it’s something I’ve put a lot of work into throughout the years,” Russo said. “When I was younger I used to take video of my shooting and I used to have terrible form. So I kind of took it upon myself to watch videos and get it as good as I could get.”
Throughout her four years Russo has garnered many highlights including Taft’s big win in volleyball this past fall, personal records in track and field and numerous double-digit scoring games on the basketball court. But she admits that some of her best highlight or memorable moments have come from the Taft community.
“After one of my basketball games, a guy from the community came up to me and said that he's watched me play since my freshman year and said it was really cool to see me grow as a player and that he appreciates my skills on the basketball court,” Russo said. “It was cool because he was someone from here that I didn’t even know, and he just stopped me and wanted to let me know that I stood out to them.”
Russo has never had issues with the physical demands needed in her various sports. In her spare time she is a champion surfer in the local competitions, an avid hiker and water sport enthusiast. Her active lifestyle allows her to excel in sports, but the one thing that occasionally holds her back is the mental aspect of sports.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, I think too much while I'm competing, so it kind of causes me to mess up sometimes,” Russo said.
But oftentimes Russo has been able to overcome that pressure, like last week when she threw her personal best in the javelin in front of a huge crowd at districts.
With graduation just a few weeks away, Russo said she is not quite sure what her future holds. But she’s positive she wants to go to college and continue to stay active.
"I definitely want to do some sports in college whether its track, basketball or volleyball,” Russo said. “I’m not really sure what I want to study yet but I’m interested in health science.”
Russo has been a dedicated athlete throughout her four years and is a big fan of competition. However, what Russo values most about sports is the bond she’s formed with many of her teammates and friends.
“I can make friends with anyone, no matter what kind of group they're in or age they are, I also try to include everyone,” Russo said. “I’ve made a lot of friends from sports and I have a group of best friends. We've been best friends since the eighth grade. There's five of us and we call ourselves the squad.”
As she wraps up a successful year and career in athletics this coming weekend, Russo has been reflecting on how she has been able to get to this point and those people who have helped her get there.
“I’ve had a lot of support from my friends, family, coaches and teachers and I couldn’t be where I am without all that support,” Russo said. “I’ve really enjoyed the people at the Taft schools.”