In gene pool, they're winners

Swimming: At McDonogh, four sets of sisters relish the bonding their sisterhood status brings.

High Schools

January 06, 2002|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

If not for swimming, Beth Sauer, Christina Spearman, Michelle Freeman and Meghan McGuire each would have just one little sister instead of four.

As friendships developed among the four McDonogh seniors, a similar rapport grew among their younger sisters, Katie Sauer, Danielle Spearman, Kimmy Freeman and Medley McGuire.

Eventually, the friendship enveloped them all.

"I always say I have four little sisters, not one," Beth said. "It's a unique bond that you just can't explain."

All of the girls, who are within two years in age, feel the same connection, created and strengthened by the shared experiences of sisterhood and swimming.

"If we didn't swim, we definitely wouldn't be as close with our sisters and each other," Christina said. "We come to morning practice together. We're here in the afternoon. You just spend so much time together that you know each other so well."

The sisters also blend well into the 26-girl Eagles squad that improved to 7-0 Thursday with a 58-35 home win over Mount de Sales.

"This year's team is the strongest team I've ever coached," McDonogh coach Scott Ward said, "and a big part of it is these eight girls. They're great kids and it's been a lot of fun coaching them."

The group, as a whole, has been together only a couple of years. The Spearmans and the Sauers have been friends since they were little. They met the Freemans at McDonogh. The McGuires arrived two years ago.

Of course, there are differences. Their personalities differ. Their academic interests differ, although they are all good students.

"We are different," Kimmy said. "We just all have the same sense of humor. We have a lot of fun when we're together."

This time of year, they're practically inseparable. All eight girls have, at some point, been year-round swimmers for the Eagles Swim Team, the club team based at McDonogh, but about half of them now concentrate on other sports, so they come together in the pool only for the short high school swimming season.

While the individual competition involved in swimming could create serious sibling rivalry, these girls have not let that happen.

"We can't afford to fight, because we see each other all the time. It's just not worth it," Meghan said.

Ward, an only child, has been careful to keep sibling rivalry on the ebb. He never pits sister against sister. Once, he joked that he would put the four seniors on one relay team and have them race the youngsters, but he said the girls didn't like that idea.

"I never compare them to their sisters. I understand that's an issue in other areas, so they don't go against each other here," Ward said. "Fortunately, with the exception of the McGuires, they don't compete head-to-head in the same events. That really helps."

Instead, Ward has opted for the Spearmans and the Freemans vs. the Sauers and the McGuires in a few relays. "We call it the family feud," Ward said, with a laugh.

But the family feud produced a 200 freestyle relay team that just might break the school record.

The Spearmans and the Freemans swam 1:44.32 before Christmas, approaching the 1:43.38 set by Christina, Danielle, Michelle and Jinji Fraser last season.

Of the eight, Danielle Spearman is the undisputed swimming star. She was the only one of them to win an individual title in last season's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland championship meet, taking the 200 individual medley.

"Danielle is on a different level. You just respect that and you're amazed at how good she is," Medley said. "Most of us don't swim the same events as our sisters so it's good to see them do well."

Until high school, the sisters had always been in different age groups than their siblings, keeping them from going head-to-head in the pool. Still, there were moments of contention.

Beth Sauer remembers getting "so jealous" because Katie repeatedly qualified for the Central Maryland Swim League individual championships at Padonia Swim Club when they were just 8 or 9.

"I used to get so mad because she didn't even winter swim. I'd be like, it's not fair. One time, two bees swam down her suit when she was trying to qualify in the 25 butterfly and she wound up qualifying anyway, and I couldn't even qualify without being stung by a bee," said Beth, laughing with Christina about the incident and the rivalry.

Katie admitted that she and Beth still have their occasional moments, but not over swimming. Beth has become the better swimmer while Katie has delved more into soccer.

"We fight, but we get over it pretty easily," said Katie, who like Kimmy is a junior while Danielle and Medley are sophomores.

The little sisters say there are a lot of perks in having four "older sisters."

"If I have a problem with my sister, which is almost never, I have seven other people I can go to who know exactly what I'm going through," Kimmy said.

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