By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Leaving a lasting memory. Leaving one’s mark.
Corban University’s Cecilee Russell did just that in more ways than on the track.
The recent Warrior Graduate was Student Body president, interned at the Chamber of Commerce and other business’ to name a few, all while qualifying for Nationals all four years as a student-athlete and proved that she was also an All-American in the classroom and on the track.
She was one in a million described her Head Coach Norm Berney with all she has done during her time at Corban University.
“Cecilee is one in a million,” said Head Coach Norm Berney. “Very few individuals can be a ASB President for 2 years and qualify for the Nationals all four years. Also, she was an Academic All American and graduated Cum Laude from Corban.
“Her work ethic and time management skills are unbelievable. She leads by example and proves to many of our athletes that you can accomplish your dreams.
“I believe she will continue to support our program and she is very humble and thankful for the opportunities Corban gave her. She is a friend to everyone and someone that is going to accomplish great things in her life.”
In 2016, Russell added Academic All-American to add to the list of other classroom honors she received at the collegiate level, living up to the term ‘Student-Athlete’.
But, it didn’t come easy for her, to juggle being a Student Body President, to maintain her goal of a 3.85 GPA and being a track star for the Warriors; but Russell didn’t do it without the Lord and the people around her.
“It was hard for me, the biggest thing I could remember how much grace I was received from the people around me because I’m rushing from place to place and I can’t always spend the amount of time I want in each place and I had to sacrifice something in one area or another,” Russell started.
“You wake up in the morning; you hit your knees and pray to god and praying, ‘God am I going to make it today because it’s crazy’. There were so many days that were like that, I couldn’t do it alone. I needed the lord and I needed the people around me to keep me afloat.”
Through all that hectic lifestyle she was living through, Russell laughed and said she wouldn’t’ve trade it for anything else.
“I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t worth it,” she laughed. “I just love serving my community and people are just amazing to serve them because they’re so receptive to my leadership and how I wanted to serve them.
“They’re so encouraging so it was like, ‘why wouldn’t I’, I felt like people rally around me at that school.”
She took that encouragement and her leadership out to the track and with the encouragement from everyone around her, coaching staff and her teammates, Russell was a four-year qualifier at the National Tournament and garner Cascade Collegiate Conference honors over her four-year career behind one belief:
The Lord, The Team Then Ourselves.
With that, with all of that support entering her senior season in 2016, she made some serious noise.
Entering the heat races to get into the finals, Russell reminded herself of how she got to this point.
She remembers her freshman year, running in the 64 second range and seeing girls hovering around 60, 61, 62 seconds and remembering thinking that she can’t do that. She can’t run that time.
But over the next three years, leading up to this point, Russell worked, trained and got to the point by her senior season to have crack into the 62 second barrier, fulfilling her dream and goal to do so.
Nerves were still there however, Russell had to talk herself into the race as if it was practice.
“So before my premlin, I went out and found a spot and I had to talk myself into it like I’m out by myself,” she said with a laugh. “Like praying and talking to myself like, ‘remember how far you come’ because it’s so easy to get greedy and want more and not to forget that you’ve already ran 62, that was the dream.”
Russell said the race itself wasn’t anything spectacular, she didn’t feel like she ran neither fast nor PR’d. She was supposed to finish fourth in her heat.
During the race itself, a girl in the lane next to Russell hits and sends a hurdle into her lane, slowly Russell down slightly and she finished thinking it was over for her to fulfill the dream of being an All-American.
“That was probably my last race, like I don’t know if I made the finals,” “and I had PR and I was like, ‘what?!? So that was great. Then I kind of wrote it off, ‘ok a High 62, that wouldn’t make it to finals’.”
But, she did run fast. She PR’d and she finished second breaking the school record in the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 1:02.71.
By the end of the third race, there were talks about a possibility of a finals appearance.
“I was like ‘ok that’s my last race’,” said Russell after her race. “And then after the third heat out of four my coach looks at me and goes, ‘you’re sitting in sixth right now’ and I’m like ‘are you serious? I thought I was done’ and he was like ‘yes’ so the next heat the girls go and I was like trying not to be selfish and think about times
With one heat to go, she sat sixth.
Two better times and her season would be over. No All-American Honors despite the PR effort during her race.
Somehow, as fate would have it, Russell made it to the final. But not without some white knuckle patience waiting to see the results from the fourth heat.
“We watched the race and one girl came in first by a good lead,” described Russell on watching the race. “Then three of them came in afterwards together in a clump and I thought there’s no way, like those girls probably came in faster, there’s no way I’m making it and the times.
“We were waiting and waiting and waiting and then all of a sudden coach was like, ‘You’re in’.”
She made it, with only eight lanes on the track; she was automatically an All-American, the first ever in the Corban Warrior Track and Field History.
“Instantly I started crying because that was the dream,” said Russell. “I’ve been waiting four-years and working every day. Everything I ate, every time I train, it all came together in that one moment.
“Like I made it, it was the dream. I wanted to represent Corban well and I knew I could get there at some point, I just didn’t know if it was going to happen and it happened.”
With her parents there watching and Russell down on the track, she threw her Gatorade bottle into the air cheering for the accomplishment of a lifetime.
The accomplishment made her relax and enjoy the moment in the finals race, with the mentality of enjoying the moment and went out as hard as she can; she ended her decorative career in the Blue and Gold with a 1:02.22 time.
“It made it relaxing so I knew that the race was a time for me to enjoy this sport,” said Russell. “Enjoy yourself, you’ve worked for this and you deserve it. So I got into the blocks and I was in Lane Eight and I just went out hard.
“There’s nothing more that I could ask for.”
Though she finished eighth at Nationals, her journey to graduation, she wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“Eighth is perfect, that allowed me to serve my community, serve the student body as well as perform the level I wanted to and achieve All-American in my Track career.”
Russell isn’t done yet however.
Recently, she moved out to Arkansas to attend John Brown University on a fellowship while working on her MBA with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior
“I’ve moved here about a week and a half ago and started my grad program a week ago today and it’s been crazy and it’s been fun.”
Russell is one in a million. She did everything that encompass the college experience. Athletics, Leadership and Serving One’s Community.
Cecilee Russell was truly one in a million.