Russ Johnson is in his seventh year as the men's pole vault coach at Rocky Top, and he will work alongside jumps coach Jerome Romain for the third season.
Johnson returned to The Hill in 2006 with the goal of helping Tennessee's pole vaulters continue to build on their long history of dominance in the Southeastern Conference. He has done exactly that, and with great consistency, since taking over coaching duties in the event.
Johnson's vaulters have won 10 SEC titles during his tenure at Tennessee. UT pole vaulters have combined to score 176.80 points at 12 SEC Championships since Johnson began coaching, an average of just under 15 points per competition.
Joe Berry pulled off a season sweep in 2011, walking away with SEC Indoor and Outdoor crowns in the vault. The junior cleared 17-7 1/2 indoors and soared over 17-8 1/2 outdoors to win titles four and five of his collegiate career. Redshirt freshman Chase Brannon was fifth outdoors (PR of 16-6 3/4) and tied for eighth inside at the league meets, while junior Robert Rasnick was seventh indoors.
An injury to Berry lessened the point production in 2010, but Rasnick (sixth) and Berry (t8th) managed to score indoors. Rasnick and Brad Holtz also qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
In 2009, Johnson's vaulters posted a 1-2-4 finish at the SEC Indoor Championships and a 1-4-7 outcome at the SEC Outdoor meet. The champion at both meets was Berry, who posted his second- and third-straight SEC pole vault crowns under Johnson to go along with a runner-up finish.
Berry's wins, along with top-eight finishes from Holtz and Michael Ayers both indoors and outdoors, meant Johnson had coached at least three athletes to scoring performances at five-consecutive conference meets.
In 2008, Johnson directed Michael Hogue to his third-straight SEC crown indoors and Berry to a conference title outdoors, while Holtz managed two scoring performances and Ayers secured one.
Outdoors in 2007, Johnson had four vaulters score 24.5 points in the pole vault to give Tennessee the lead in the team standings on Saturday afternoon, helping the Vols to the program's 25th conference outdoor title.
Johnson also is responsible for putting Hogue and Berry on the program's all-time outdoor top-10 list in the pole vault. Berry is ninth at 5.41m (17-9) and Hogue is 10th at 5.40m (17-8 1/2 indoors). Holtz sits at 12th on the all-time list with a top clearance of 5.30m (17-4.5).
Johnson also boasts a successful career as a Tennessee athlete. He currently stands second on Tennessee's storied pole vault top-10 list with a best of (5.65m) 18-6.5, trailing only collegiate record holder Lawrence Johnson.
Serving as a fifth-year coach in 2000 and training post-collegiately in 2000 and 2001, Johnson remained involved in the pole vault and has continued to diligently study the event. He also holds firm beliefs about the importance of developing strong student-athletes, authoring two Academic All-America seasons himself.
Johnson received his bachelor's (2000) and master's (2002) degrees in sports medicine from the University of Tennessee. He went on to earn a master's in physical therapy from the Medical College of Georgia in 2004.
He currently works as a physical therapist and site coordinator at Ortho Tennessee Therapy, which is part of Knoxville Orthopedic Clinic. Johnson is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He is married to Lesly (Love) Johnson, a former Lady Vol pole vaulter and All-America sprinter. They welcomed a new daughter to the family in 2009, Lily Charlotte Johnson.