Russell leaving her mark
She is considered a great teammate, a fierce competitor, a mother figure and one of the most giving girls on the team.
The Arizona gymnastics team will be hosting its senior night on Friday at 7, and it will bid farewell to its lone senior Miranda Russell. As a fifth year senior, she has had many ups and downs throughout her career, but she'll go out on a high note.
""She could have retired. She didn't want to and she came back and is having the best year of her career,"" head coach Bill Ryden said. ""She is so determined. She is in such good shape, and she has worked so hard.""
Ryden mentioned retirement in reference to Russell's torn ACL, which caused her to miss parts of two seasons after the injury failed to heal correctly.
""I learned to appreciate everything out here a lot more ever since I got hurt,"" Russell said. ""It was a big life changing thing for me.""
Even after her injury, Russell remained positive for the teammates she consistently coaches and advises.
""She is definitely honest, which is good,"" said junior Katie Matusik. ""If you are having a bad day, she won't be afraid to tell you to pick it up. She isn't afraid to give you corrections.""
Russell is held in high regards by the Wildcats. In fact, there was not one gymnast who could hold back an ear to ear smile when they heard her name.
""It's really hard coming into a new team, and they are all so close here,"" said freshman Jordan Williams. ""Miranda is really welcoming. She is kind of the mom of the team, and she brings us all together. It just really creates a family atmosphere.""
Russell isn't quite sure what she'll be doing once her career is over. She is in the process of applying for Teach for America and will eventually apply to law school. If that doesn't work out, Ryden has said he would love for her to come back and be a volunteer coach.
Russell's teammates aren't going to let her leave without some fun, as they plan their usual senior farewell tradition.
""We basically get a convertible or pickup truck and we decorate it with ribbons and streamers,"" said sophomore Molly Quirk. ""We drive around campus with
(Miranda) in the back and honk and we are loud and obnoxious to try and draw attention (to show) that it's her last meet and try and get some people to come watch.""
Arizona, currently ranked No. 24, still has the Pacific 10 Conference championships after this weekend and the post season after that.
""I would like to be remembered as being a good teammate and being a team player,"" Russell said.