A.H.S. Hall of Fame

 

2003 AHS Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees

 

Russell Allen Betts

(AHS 1984-1989)

 

On March 21, 1970 Russell Allen Betts was born to his proud mother Millie C. Betts and the late James O. Betts.  He is the second of three sons, the first being Juan Campbell and the youngest Israel Walker.  Russell grew up behind Abbeville High School (AHS) near Hebertís Meat Market.

Russell grew up in a loving home where there was no history of previous sports involvement.  It was believed that athletics took too much time away from household chores.  This all changed at age twelve when Russell asked a family friend, Larry ďCrusherĒ Smith, to speak with his mother and convince her to allow him to play Biddy Basketball.  With reservations, Russellís mother allowed him to play, provided he kept his grades up.  With her permission, Russell signed up and joined his first organized sport, where he learned the concept of teamwork.  Russell was a quick study where he learned that he couldnít dribble with two hands as well as camp out in the lane.  Because of his hard work, he was honored with being selected to the all-star team, where he joined Blaine Turner and AHS Hall of Fame inductee Ken Meyers as a starter.

Pleased with his success in Biddy Basketball, Russellís mother was less hesitant when he joined his 8th grade basketball team as a starter.  Following the season, his coach, Larry Winters, encouraged him to go out for track stating, ďIt was a good way to stay in shape and strengthen his legs in order to jump higher for basketball.Ē  Russell did not have much success on the track until Coach Ivy Landry convinced him to run the 800-meter dash against some of the areaís top schools like St. Martinville and New Iberia.  There, Russell won the Outstanding Track award and started to realize his potential in track.

Also recognizing his potential, Russell caught the eye of the high school coaches who were impressed with his times and distances.  During his freshman year, 1984-85, he helped qualify AHSís mile relay team, which included Russellís cousin Mark Campbell and baseball star Greg Landry, for the State Regional.  Because of obligations to the AHS band, Russell was unable to attend his State Regional meet.  However, that summer Russell ran summer track through The Athletic Congress (TAC).  His two mile relay team qualified and ran in the national meet in Seattle, Washington

In 1985-86, Russell saw more success his sophomore year by winning Parish, District and Regional in the triple jump.  In addition, he also excelled in the 800-meter dash by placing second at State Regional and earning a trip to the state meet.  At the state meet he placed second in the 800-meter dash, losing the state title by one one-hundredth of a second and placed fourth in the triple jump.

That summer Russell ran Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) track where he competed in the 400-meter hurdles and triple jump.  Though Russell struggled through injuries that summer, he successfully qualified for nationals where he placed fourth in both events.

Taking the experience and techniques learned during the summer, Russell entered his junior year with a sense of determination and drive.  He won Parish, District and Regional in both the triple jump and the 800-meter dash.  Russell also qualified for Regional in the 400-meter dash and was the anchor on the mile relay team, where his 48-second split helped qualify the team for the state meet.  At the state meet Russell finished second in the 800-meter dash, once again losing by one one-hundredth of a second.  The day was highlighted however by Russell winning the state title in the triple jump with a jump of 48 feet 7 inches, breaking the school record and earning all-state honors in this event.  Following the meet, Russell was spotlighted in an article for his ability to achieve success on the state level in two vastly different events.  Russell contributed 18 of AHSís 20 points, which ranked them among the top ten AAA teams in the state.

Over the summer Russell played summer league basketball to keep busy and prepare for the upcoming year.  During Russellís senior year, 1987-88, he suffered a hip pointer during the basketball season, which hampered him throughout his senior track season.  Even with this injury, he qualified for state where he placed second in the triple jump and fourth in the 800-meter dash.  Undeterred by Russellís injury, numerous colleges such as LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Dartmouth and the University of Wisconsin continued to recruit him. 

Russellís high school career also included contributions to other sports as well.  He served as the captain of the cross-country team from 1985-88, where he helped the team qualify for state.  He was also a member of the varsity basketball team from 1985-88, where he saw significant time as a sophomore and was a starter his junior and senior years.  Russell was also honored with a selection to the all-district defensive team in 1987.

When it came time to think about life after high school, Russell was impressed with the University of Wisconsinís rich tradition in both athletics and academics.  Russell accepted a scholarship and chose to take his talents to the next level as a member of the UW Badger track team.  At the University of Wisconsin, Russell was a consistent scorer in the Big Ten, placing in both the 400-meter hurdles and the triple jump, helping the Badgers consistently rank as one of the top teams in the Big Ten.  He is noted as one of only six Badgers to earn five letters in his athletic career.

While at the UW, Russell earned a bachelorís degree in Afro-American Studies and Sociology.  He is a member of Kappa Alpha Phi Fraternity Inc., where he continues to participate on the local graduate level mentoring local high school students.  He currently serves as a lector at St. Peterís Catholic Church in Madison, WI and is a member of the local NAACP and Urban League chapters.

Russell currently serves as the Director of Development for the Southern US for the University of Wisconsin Foundation. There he solicits financial support from alumni to maintain the margin of excellence that has kept the university consistently among the top five public universities in the country.  He is married to Karen Herrera, a local schoolteacher, and is the proud father of three-year-old Evelyn Michele Betts.
            Russell has a great fondness for his days at Abbeville High, remembering the encouragement and support of his teammates and coaches throughout the years.  Russell especially remembers the coaching, fatherly advice and sacrifices made by his track coach Ivy Landry, whom he credits for much of his success.

 

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