BUTTE — Butte High’s Catherine Russo is half-human and half-fish. Or, at least it seems that way.

She is only a sophomore, but won a pair of state titles as a freshman in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly, putting her in a rare class in Montana history. Russo knew she had talent, but not that much.

“You’re not necessarily expecting much out of it (as a freshman),” she said of competing at state. “(It) was a pretty awesome experience, especially just to finish the season winning.”

The North Carolina-born swimmer enters her second season with the Bulldogs carrying a heavy load of expectations, but is already off to a blazing start. She won her first two individual events at the team’s first meet on Dec. 1, but that came in unconventional fashion for her.

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“I did — close to — my two worst events,” she explained. “Just to see how I was.”

Not only did she win the 200-yard individual medley and the mixed 500-yard freestyle, but she won them in dominant fashion. By now, this doesn’t come as a surprise to Butte High head coach Lynn Shrader.

“She can just swim any event,” she said of her top swimmer. “She has some really good speed, plus she has good balance in the water and she (always) knows exactly where she’s at.”

That’s not where Shrader ended her praise for the girl she has coached since Russo was 7 years old. She thinks the future is even brighter.

“She could swim in college and be extremely (talented),” Shrader said. “And if she wants to and puts in the time, I would love to see her make the Olympic Trials.”

Russo loves the sport, but she is also one of the top students in her sophomore class. Her academics — not her swimming — will dictate the future.

“I really want to use swimming as a way to get into a good academic college,” Russo said. “For me, swimming is kind of trying to use it as a way to set yourself apart.”

She is setting herself apart quickly in both the classroom and the pool. Russo will hit the pool again on Dec. 9 at the Butte invite.

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