SPARKS AND RECREATION: Russell enjoys pool party at region

Feb. 8—The Russell swim team made another splash on the big stage.

The results speak for itself.

The Red Devils arrived at Eastern Kentucky University last weekend with one goal in mind. Coach Jennifer Trippett said her team doesn't water down their expectations. They want to keep raising the bar and produced several successful Region 9 performances.

"We set out with a goal this year," Trippett said. "We wanted to be second in the region. We accomplished that. It's the first time that Russell has been a region runner-up. It was the most podium finishers that we've ever had. We had 13 individual podium finishers and four relay podium finishers."

Russell was one point shy of acquiring second place at last year's region meet. The Red Devils took home a slew of medals on Sunday and they held the runner-up spot by a wide margin.

Russell tallied 284 points, clearing third-place Madison Southern by 42 points. Madison Central held a commanding point total to claim the top spot with 503.

Trippett said the excitement level around her program is growing alongside the point totals.

"We lost seven swimmers from last season (due to graduation)," Trippett said, "but our team is actually bigger this year. It's the largest team that I've had in the last three years. We had 31 in our program and I took 29 to region."

"We are a fairly young team," she continued. "We added several middle school students this year. But those seventh and eighth graders really stepped up. A lot of them are the ones who metaled this year."

While young swimmers can lean on the experience of their teammates, they didn't seem to shy away from the moment as they competed in a region event for the first time.

"I've had several swimmers and parents tell me that there's something different about this sport," Trippett said, "especially when you are swimming it for high school. There is nothing like the atmosphere at a region swim meet. Everybody there is a team. Everybody is encouraging one another. We had one goal to work together as a team and we did it."

Brynlee Trippett has battled back issues this season but she wouldn't let it keep her out of the pool or from competing in the long-distance events.

The sophomore won the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:32.25. She was joined by teammates, Maddie Whitlock (6:37.87) and Emma Brown (6:51.97) to medal in the event.

Brynlee Trippett also placed second in the 200-yard freestyle at 2:00.30 just a shade under four seconds behind Madison Central's Marlee Cooksey for first.

Brynlee Trippett will compete in both events at Round 1 of the state swim meet on Feb. 17 at Scott High School in Covington.

"The fact that she overcame that and swam a best time at regionals, it was a huge success for her," Jennifer Trippett said. "We didn't know where this season would lead her or if she would swim as well as she did. She anchored both relays with the best splits that she ever had. She stepped up and motivated that 1x400 relay. On the last day of finals, she pulled them into that room and gave them a pep talk. They went out and guaranteed them a second-place spot and a trip to State."

Brynlee Trippett made the All-Region team for the second-straight year along with Fleming County's Ariel Grannis.

Grannis advanced to the state meet after finishing second in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 1:03.29. She also placed second in the 100-yard backstroke, finishing at 1:01.26.

Russell's 400-yard freestyle relay team consisting of SK Barfield, Maddie Whitlock, Ava Ladd and Brynlee Trippett swam their way to a spot in the state meet with a second-place time of 4:16.22

The same quartet medaled in the 200-yard freestyle relay after finishing third.

Aly Hurst, Lylah Cameron, Bristol Whitlock and Reese Cameron made it to the podium after completing the 200-yard medley relay in seventh.

The relay teams had a different look this year but the teamwork and drive remained the same, according to their coach.

"They have all stepped up and filled those positions," Jennifer Trippett said. "Even my alternates. Leading up to State, I am practicing seven girls. Four will only get to swim but all seven of them have put in the work. They are supportive of each other and very encouraging of each other. All seven of them are giving me 110%."

Maddie Whitlock medaled in the 100-yard breaststroke. Bristol Whitlock placed fourth in the 200-yard individual medley (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle) and sixth in the butterfly. Brown placed eighth in the fly to earn a medal.

Ladd (200-yard medley), Barfield (50-yard freestyle) and Cameron (100-yard breaststroke) made the podium and collected medals.

Ashland's 200-yard medley relay team of Arianna Bussa, Marley Walter, Issabelle Donahoe and Caroline Yates took the final podium spot.

The full list of area medalists were: Boyd County's Ady Powers (200-yard freestyle, fourth place; 100-yard freestyle, seventh place), Ashland's Issabelle Donohoe (200-yard individual medley, eighth place), Ashland's Chris Peacock (200-yard individual medley, third place; 100-yard butterfly, fourth place), Zach Ramsey (200-yard individual medley, fifth place) and Boyd County's Keevin Hepler (50-yard freestyle, fifth place; 100-yard freestyle, sixth place).

The Ashland boys 200-yard freestyle relay team of Aiden Parker, Zach Ramsey, Neill Parker and Peacock finished seventh.

Johnson Central placed second in the boys team standings.

Jennifer Trippett has sent boys relay teams to the region podium but she was overjoyed to see the first individual swimmer receive not one, but two medals in his first taste of the region atmosphere.

Seventh grader Ian Sarver placed third in the 500-yard freestyle (5:48.34) and fourth in the 200-yard individual medley. Sarver was part of the Tomcats' 200-yard freestyle relay team, along with Parker, Ramsey and Parker, that ended the event in seventh.

Jennifer Trippett said her team will take those high expectations to State and her young swimmers will happily accept them in the years to come.

"It's something that they look forward to," Jennifer Trippett said. "They want to make it individually but we have set the bar high with our relay after advancing to State the last three years. It's a goal for a lot of my swimmers. They want to be part of that and get to experience it. I feel like it is one of the things that they look forward to the most. I feel it's a bigger accomplishment this year because the guidelines of how they run State has been changed by the KHSAA."

"I am very pleased that we will be advancing and go up there and make a name for ourselves," she added. "It was the best compliment to have one of the meet directors come up to me and say, 'Your team is really making a name for themselves.'"