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Windy days can be hard on the track for Zoe Russillo

PLUMMER, Minn.--Windy days can be hard on the track for Zoe Russillo. It's not running into the breeze that hinders the Red Lake County sprinter. The problem can be hearing starter commands. Russillo is hearing impaired. She can hear only with th...

Zoe Russillo
Zoe Russillo

PLUMMER, Minn.-Windy days can be hard on the track for Zoe Russillo.

It's not running into the breeze that hinders the Red Lake County sprinter. The problem can be hearing starter commands.

Russillo is hearing impaired. She can hear only with the use of a hearing aid in each ear.

"Sometimes, when it's really windy, I have a hard time hearing the starter say ready and set,'' the sophomore said. "I have to look at the runners next to me. If their butts are up in the air, I'll get in the set position, too.

"The starter's gun is loud and clear.''

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Russillo won her second consecutive Section 8A meet title in the 100 last Saturday after finishing second in the race as an eighth-grader. Today she'll be competing in the Class A state high school meet in St. Paul, trying to improve on her 12th-place finish of a year ago in the 100.

"A lot of people ask me what's in my ears,'' Russillo said. "I tell them they're so I can hear, that I'm deaf.

"I can't hear anything when I take these (hearing aids) out. I have to wear them all the time. I'm used to them; I've had them since I was 4 or 5 years old.''

Success has come without extra training. Russillo has never gone to a running camp or speed-and-acceleration clinic. "I've never done anything special like that. I just like to run,'' she said.

Mustangs coach Randy Huie calls Russillo a natural. "And she's very determined. She doesn't like to lose,'' Huie said. "But she's such a humble kid. Anyone who talks to her would never realize how good she is. She doesn't talk about it.

"She's just another good kid. You don't notice her disability, except when she's talking to others. It's easier for her if she can look right at people when they talk so she can lip read.''

In addition to the 100, Russillo runs on the state-qualifying 4x100 relay with AJ Jones, Julia Bernstein and MaKenzie Williams. Williams hands off to Russillo anchoring. They communicate differently than most relays.

"I tell our third runner to nod when she gets close, not to yell go,'' Russillo said. "When I see the nod, I take off.

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"I've been to state the last two years in the 100. I really wanted to go in the relay, to have three others get to state who haven't been there.''

Jerome, Wang to seeds

The top area seeds at state are Roseau's Maddie Jerome and Crookston's Mason Wang.

Jerome, a senior, has the state's fastest girls Class A qualifying time in the 300 hurdles at 45.03 seconds.

Wang, a junior, is seeded fourth in Class A boys 200 and sixth in the 100.

Related Topics: PREP SPORTS
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