One of the best throwers in Kansas University track history, Scott Russell held his pre-Kansas Relays media interview session outside of Haskell Stadium, not KU's Memorial Stadium, Tuesday afternoon.
"I work here. I'm the head trainer. Kind of a scary thought, isn't it?" the 6-foot-9, 270-pounder said with a smile, a purple Haskell cap atop his head.
Nah, not scary at all.
The gentle giant, who will throw his specialty, the javelin, at 5 p.m. Friday outside Memorial Stadium, is well educated, and as a certified athletic trainer he is well equipped to train the Fightin' Indian athletes.
"It's fun. I enjoy working with the athletes. I've had a lot of people help me out. To get to give back is rewarding," said the 26-year-old Windsor, Ontario, native.
He figures to have a batch of KU -- as well as Fightin' Indian -- fans on hand for Friday's javelin, one of the marquee events at the 2005 Relays.
"I love the way it's set up for the fans," Russell said of the javelin runway on the northeast side of the stadium. "Sometimes I wish we'd throw in the other direction. We have horrible crosswinds. This year it's supposed to rain Thursday night, Friday morning, so hopefully it'll calm things down before we throw."
He's fared well at the Relays, winning in 2001, '03 and '04. He did not compete in the 2002 event.
"I've been training since August," Russell said. "When I didn't make the Olympic team, I took a month off, then started training again. I've been training six days a week since."
The six-time Canadian Outdoor champion, who has a personal best heave of 267-feet, 11-inches, remains motivated to make the Olympic Games. He fell short in 2000 and '04 despite winning the Canadian championships.
Canada also requires its athletes to reach a certain standard; Russell fell six feet shy in 2004 and 10 feet shy in 2000. He won the 2004 Canadian Olympic trials with a toss of 255-5. The qualifying standard was 268-4.
"It's the reason I'm still doing the sport," Russell said of his Olympic dreams. "At the end of the year, I was injured. I strained my groin a month before trials. It was disappointing. All I can do is put it behind me and keep training if that's what I want to do. I basically need to throw the standard, and I'm a shoo-in."
Russell will be pushed by two-time Olympian Kirt Thompson and two-time NCAA champion John Hetzendorf, throws coach at Wichita State.
"I'm glad Tim was able to get some good guys in here," Russell said of meet director Tim Weaver. "It should be a lot of fun. The Kansas Relays is one of the best events of the year, getting to throw before the fans."
The fans usually show for Russell.
"Nah," he said, asked if he can tell he's the favorite by the roars of the crowd. "If I hear them cheering I can always pretend it's for me. I'll take anything I can get."
The Relays officially begins today, with the featured events the men's and women's hammer.
Nick Welihozkiy, the 2004 Relays champion from the Pac-Bay track club, will face stiff competition from KU's Sheldon Battle at 11 a.m. outside the stadium. On the women's side, KU's Jennifer Widerstrom will face tough competition from three Kansas State throwers -- Laci Heller, Loren Groves and Shannon Popp. The distance carnival will run from 5 p.m. until about 9:30 p.m. at the stadium.