Considering how arduous it was for the Russells to have a baby, it didn’t surprise Ken Russell that his wife might have more than one in her womb.
After all, Russell was a twin. But as it turned out his being a twin had nothing to do with his wife, Shannon, expecting triplets.
Mead volleyball standouts Allie, Lindsey and McKenna Russell are fraternal triplets. That means they don’t look alike.
Years earlier, when the Russells had their first child, a boy, they had done a number of different things trying to conceive. So when they decided to try again, they visited with a fertility specialist.
They settled on fertility shots. Five weeks into the pregnancy, they discovered they had triplets on the way. At the 19-week mark, they found out they were all girls.
Life changed immediately. Ken and Shannon were bringing in three more to a two-bedroom home.
“They slept in the same room as us,” Ken said.
Most of the load the first year fell upon Shannon.
“My wife was a rock star, for sure,” said Ken, a former Mead teacher, principal and now the Riverside School District superintendent.
They were healthy and good size at birth. McKenna weighed 5 pounds; Lindsey was 4 pounds, 9 ounces; and Allie was 4 pounds, 4 ounces. They were born not quite two months early at about 33 weeks.
If one had strolled through the hospital nursery shortly after they were born, he’d have thought there were three girls born to three mothers.
Look close at them today and they look like they’re sisters. But triplets? Two of them, McKenna and Lindsey, are 6-foot. Allie is 5-7.
“I got the short end of the stick,” Allie said.
Allie is the shortest in the family. Even her brother, a seventh-grader, is taller, and her mom is 5-10.
Lindsey has shared setting duties in Mead’s 6-2 offense with senior Sarah Absalonson. Lindsey also hits right side.
McKenna is a starting middle blocker. Allie is the team’s third setter who comes off the bench.
In the 4A regional title match at Richland, Lindsey had 34 assists and McKenna had seven kills, three aces and two blocks.
The triplets represent a third of Mead’s roster. It’s likely all three will start next year, making up half of the Panthers’ starting lineup.
They also play basketball. At least two of them will likely make Mead’s starting lineup this winter.
Volleyball comes first for them, though. They’ve played on the same club team since they were 11 years old. They’ll play for a fifth year for former Community Colleges of Spokane coach Irene Matlock this spring.
Mead coach Shawn Wilson puts much value on the contributions from the triplets.
About Allie: “She’s a good setter. She just has two really good setters in front of her and one of them is a sister. She’d start in an emergency.”
About Lindsey, a two-year starter: “She touches half the balls every match and sets up our hitters and blocks right side. She’s there to block the other team’s outside hitters. Our last two matches her productivity has picked up.”
About McKenna: “She has a really high hitting percentage (.357). She’s one of the most efficient hitters on the team. Middle hitters have the toughest job on the team. They have to block every ball, they have to roam the entire net. And at the same time they have to get back and get ready to hit and approach the net as if they’re going to hit. They have to move three times more than any other player on the court.”
The triplets’ efficiency on the court can be tied to their efficiency in the classroom. Allie and McKenna carry 4.0 grade-point averages and Lindsey has a 3.5.
Lindsey admits that school is a little more difficult for her. The triplets were in one class together as freshmen, another as sophomores but aren’t in a class together this year. Oddly enough, Allie and McKenna are in four of six classes this fall.
“It’s unfair,” Lindsey said, smiling. “I have to work harder and they’re in the same classes.”
McKenna and Lindsey call Allie the mother hen.
“She’s more responsible,” McKenna said.
Of the three, Allie has a driver’s license and totes around the sisters. The other two don’t drive because insurance is too expensive.
The Russells are confident Mead can fare well at state. They’re shooting for nothing less than a state title.
Standing in Mead’s way could be heavily favored and undefeated West Valley of Yakima.
Mead knows what it must do. The Panthers played WV in a home nonleague match in late October, falling in five sets.
“We just need to finish,” McKenna said. “We were up in the fourth game and we let down and played a little scared after that. They controlled it in the fifth set.”
The Panthers’ biggest opponent may not be the one on the other side of the net.
“We need to get out of our own heads,” Lindsey said.
“We know we have to be in the right mindset, focus and we can get it done,” Allie said.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.