Brothers and sisters playing together are common in sports at all levels. And they’ll often say they have a “chemistry,” a developed ability to know where the other person is going to be on the court or field after playing together for years.
But what if that brother or sister is a twin? It’s a much more rare occurrence, but does it give the pairing an even bigger advantage?
“I find it funny when people think we can read each other’s minds,” WWU track sprinter Veronica Ivancic said. “We can’t.”
Ivancic and her twin sister, Rachel, are one of a remarkable three sets of identical twins within the WWU Athletics program this year. Veronica and Rachel, also a track sprinter, join soccer twins — Abby and Lexi Klinkenberg — and softball twins — Carlie and Cylie Richards.
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And they all agreed that it isn’t necessarily a connection on the field or track that helps them succeed, but rather having someone they’ve spent their entire lives with to help push them, motivate them or console them.
“Most people have their best friend they do everything with,” Carlie Richards said. “They’ll say ‘Oh we’re like brothers’ or ‘Oh, we’re like sisters,’ but we actually are.”
Entering the college scene is difficult for any student. Add an athletics workload on top of that — with 6 a.m. workouts, practices, games and travel — and the adjustment is extremely challenging.
It’s made much easier by having someone who’s very similar to you — even identical in appearance — going through the same thing.
“I think that helped a lot. It made it a lot easier. I knew I wasn’t here by myself,” Lexi Klinkenberg said. “I at least knew one person that I could talk to about everything.”
But being a twin also comes with the advantage of helping meet new people, the Klinkenbergs noted.
If one of them gets invited to an event, they both do.
“It’s just like we have to be together,” Lexi Klinkenberg said. “So even if I’m better friends with them, they’ll still invite both of us.”
On the flip side, the biggest struggle is being grouped together — something all three twins agreed on without hesitation.
“You get compared a lot with everything you do,” Lexi Klinkenberg said. “It’s like, ‘Oh you do that, too?’ or ‘Oh, is your sister better at this than you?’ Yeah, we’re not the same person.”
For the Ivancic twins, the nature of track makes comparisons even more difficult.
“People will always ask who is faster,” Veronica Ivancic said. “People don’t realize when you say who’s faster, it’s not really a positive thing.”
The best advice the Ivancics — juniors — have for the two sets of freshman twins wearing WWU blue and grey is to not let those comparisons bug them.
“Just don’t pay attention too much to what people say. People like to compare you, just brush it off,” Rachel Ivancic said. “If one person in your mind is doing better, just think, ‘Well, I’m a different person.’ Obviously we have different capabilities.”
But knowing each other’s capabilities can also pay off.
For the Klinkenbergs, they’re able to push each other in ways other teammates and coaches can’t.
“It’s different when of my teammates is like ‘Dude that’s horrible. What are you doing?’ I could say that to her and she wouldn’t get mad, but if someone else said it, she’d be like ‘Oh that was kind of mean,’” Lexi Klinkenberg said. “We can be tougher on each other, and that helps.”
A big decision twins have to make when going to college is whether to room together. Among the three WWU twins, different decisions were made.
The Richards and Klinkenberg twins are roommates. The Ivancic twins have never been roommates but, randomly, were hallmates their freshman year and have shared apartments since.
“For the three of us, it was easier. We didn’t have to go through the ‘Oh I hope I like my roommate,’” Carlie Richards said. “We already knew each other. ... It was less stressful. We knew if we absolutely hated it we would at least like our roommates.”
As for Abby and Lexi Klinkenberg, the decision was made more because of convenience than anything.
“We share everything, like all of our clothes,” Lexi Klinkenberg said. “It’s easier if we’re together.”
The Ivancic twins, though, tried to stay in separate rooms to keep the relationship a positive one.
“We didn’t want to fight,” Rachel Ivancic said. “I feel like living in the same room is different than living in the same apartment, so we’d fight more. Also, it’s too comforting. The first year you want to get to know more people.”
For the Richards, getting to know people wasn’t a problem because of the family atmosphere of the softball team.
So much time is spent with the teammates that the inside jokes, connection and chemistry that had been built with their lookalike over the years, was quickly replicated among other teammates.
“We have a lot of inside jokes so we can keep each other loose,” Cylie Richards said. “But I feel like once you get to know someone I have inside jokes with other people now. We’re starting to get that more because we’re around other teammates a lot.”
And those teammates rarely have difficulty telling them apart anymore.
For all three sets of twins, they admitted it took awhile but for the most part, teammates and coaches get it now.
If only the rest of campus could as well.
Rachel and Veronica Ivancic
Sport: Track and field
Hometown: Seatte (attended Nathan Hale High School)
Major: Both are majoring in studio arts, but Rachel is concentrating in photography and Veronica is concentrating in the painting and drawing side of the major.
Birth order: Veronica is older by three minutes.
Siblings: One older sister, who recently turned 29.
Telling them apart: Like the Klinkenbergs and Richards twins, face shape is a pretty big distinction. Veronica’s face is a little more narrow. Also, their noses are slightly different, and they have different ear piercings. “I don’t think we look like each other,” Rachel said.
Best part about being a twin: “Always having a best friend around,” Rachel said. Veronica added: “It’s not even like best friend. I feel like you’re slightly closer than even a best friend. She’s the one person I can tell almost everything to.”
Worst part about being a twin: “People comparing you,” Rachel said. “Especially in track, because its times. In other sports you can compare, but track is literally a time they can compare you to so that’s frustrating.”
Abby and Lexi Klinkenberg
Hometown: Renton (attended Kentridge High School)
Position: Abby is a defender and Lexi is a forward. Both tend to play on the right side.
Major: Abby hopes to major in kinesiology, while Lexi is looking at pre-law.
Birth order: Abby is one minute older.
Siblings: They have one younger sister, who is 15.
Telling them apart: Their hair is very similar, but the part is on different sides. Lexi’s part is on her left side and Abby’s on the right. Abby also has “chubbier cheeks and a wider face,” she said. And if close attention is paid, Abby is right-handed while Lexi is left-handed. They don’t exactly make things easier on the field, as Abby wears No. 14 and Lexi wears No. 4, but their different colored cleats are a big telltale, something coach Travis Connell uses frequently. Still, teammates often confuse them in practices. In games, though, Abby will keep her hair braided while Lexi doesn’t.
Best part about being a twin: “You have an automatic best friend to talk to all the time,” Lexi said.
Worst part about being a twin: “You’re always grouped together,” Abby said. “It’s always like ‘Oh the twins.’”
Carlie and Cylie Richards
Hometown: Kennewick (attended Kamiakin High School)
Position: Cylie plays middle infield and Carlie plays outfield.
Major: Cylie hopes to major in kinesiology, and Carlie is aiming for a degree in secondary education.
Birth order: Cylie is older by three minutes.
Siblings: One older brother, who is 21.
Telling them apart: It’s mostly the hair. “Her’s is more straight; mine is more curly,” Cylie said. People also have told them their heads are different shapes, although it’s hardly distinguishable. While teammates used to confuse them, they rarely do anymore. Coach Amy Suiter must have an eye for it, though, “she’s always been able to tell us apart,” they say.
Best part about being a twin: “To always have somebody with you pushing you in everything you do, whether it’s school or working out or anything like that,” Cylie said.
Worst part about being a twin: “A lot of times people will clump us together and think we’re exactly the same, but there’s a lot of things we’re actually different about,” Carlie said.