BUTTE — As Butte swimmer Catherine Russo captured a first-place finish in the 100 butterfly at the USA Swimming Futures Championships, her initial reaction wasn’t to cheer or celebrate. Her main priority wasn’t to win the event, rather she went to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials. Once the race concluded, she immediately looked up at the scoreboard.
“I kind of hit the wall and I kind of just stopped for a second. I wanted to get my goggles off because they were killing my face," said Russo. "I just heard my coach and my mom screaming and I was like, 'Oh jeez, what happened?' So I kind of just looked at the time and was like, 'Oh my gosh.'”
Russo needed to swim the 100 fly in less than 1 minute, 0.69 seconds to qualify for the Olympic Trials. Her time on Friday? A qualifying mark of 1:00.61, clinching her spot in the Olympic Trials next June in Omaha, Nebraska. There she has the opportunity to represent her team, the city of Butte and the state of Montana in front of the best swimmers in the United States.
“I was so excited to do it for my team and for Butte," Russo said. "It was so funny. I got back and I hadn’t seen my dad in a while, he came back from work and was like, 'If I have to hear one more time about everyone talking about how awesome it was that you got that time.' But it’s really cool. I’m so excited that I get to represent Montana and my team in Bozeman, Butte, and it’s such an awesome experience and I’m so glad I get to have it.”
Russo will have one more year at Butte High to break records, win state titles and prepare for the 2020 Olympic Trials before she becomes a part of Ohio State’s swimming program in the fall of 2020. The legacy she wants to leave behind is simply to be a role model for the next generation of swimmers.
“For me, above all, I really just want to do the best I can representing Bozeman and my team back there because that’s always been my biggest priority," she said. "I want to go out and set a good example for all the younger kids there and really just make my coach proud, especially. I couldn’t have done any of this without her. So, I think above all, whatever I do next is just to make my family, my coach and my team proud of me.”