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The ups and downs of following in your siblings'footsteps

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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for the love of the game

When I was growing up, I wanted to be just like my older sister, Ashley. I requested some of the same grade school teachers she did and started swimming because she did. She was the epitome of everything I wanted to be and do.

Another part of this story — we both look very similar. We're both tall, have brown hair and wear glasses. Oh, and my mother also decided to give my siblings and I all the same initials so we were never called our correct name at the first yell.

Besides our looks, we had other similarities. We swam, we read and were studious. In my hometown, not a lot of people swam, so we were known for being the "swimmer girls."

My freshman year of high school, Ashley was a senior and we got to swim together. It was fun being the younger sibling of an older sister who was a state-caliber swimmer. I had the "in" with the older crowd and liked spending time with her. We were never best friends growing up, we were just siblings who spent every weekend together at swim meets.

When I hit my junior year of high school, I started resenting being like my sister. I got tired of being called Ashley by high school teachers and wanted to be my own person. I pursued theater. I joined the high school newspaper and I focused more on advanced writing classes.

My sister took swimming to the next level and competed at Division I South Dakota State University. In high school, I was burnt out by swimming and didn't want to continue after high school. After 10 years of competitive swimming, I hung up my goggles.

From my junior year of high school to the start of my junior year of college, I did everything I could to be different from Ashley. I didn't pursue swimming in college, I went to a different college out of state and tried to "find myself."

What I found was that I didn't know a lot once I hit college, so I turned to the one person who had dealt with moving to a new state, having new roommates and navigating a new campus: Ashley.

I distinctly remember calling her the week before classes started. I came to campus a week early for freshman orientation because I couldn't make it during the summer. As people started trickling in, I freaked out.

Me (bawling): "Ashley, everybody dresses up here and I don't have any friends. How am I supposed to make friends?"

(Everybody dressing up meant girls were curling their hair and wearing sundresses where as I was lazy about dressing up.)

Ashley: "Those girls who dress up don't matter because once classes start, they'll be the weird ones. Nobody dresses up in college because you're too tired and going to class. You'll be fine, Alex."

In my first two years of college, I called Ashley for silly questions, like how to make friends and what a polymer was (she was a pharmacy major so she had the science thing down). Once I hit my junior year, we started moving into more meaningful conversations. I caught myself calling her to just talk or tell her about some story that I worked on.

This week, I talked with younger siblings who, just like me, got into their sport because of an older sister. Ian Frost and Natalie Albaugh spent weekends at meets or tournaments watching their older sisters compete and eventually followed in their footsteps.

For Ian and his sister, throwing in track and field gave them common ground. They talk frequently and even though they use different throwing weights, they see who can throw farther at meets.

I think competing in the same sport as your sibling is one of the best experiences. It gives you a something in common besides being related outside of your home and you learn how to work together in a different way. Plus, it's one less practice your parents have to drive to.

Instead of resenting being too much like my sister, I now happily look back on the years spent at swim meets with my sister. We can now laugh about the funny tan lines we had and wish we could eat as much as we did when we were 8-year-olds full of energy.

Alexandria can be reached at 426-4412 or

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: April 7, 2016

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