In end, red and green don't clash for twins

High schools: Playing field hockey for rival schools, the Burke sisters give each other a hard time, but stay close.

High Schools

October 13, 2004|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Roland Park goalie Shannon Burke could not contain her joy after her Reds field hockey team upset St. Paul's three weeks ago. As she came to the end of the post-game handshake line, Burke leaped into the arms of the opposing goalie.

That surprised no one. The other goalie was her twin sister, K.C. Burke.

Later that night, the Burkes' Timonium home was much quieter than it had been all week. Shannon didn't brag about the Reds' 2-1 victory. She knows what it feels like to be on the other side. Her Reds had never beaten the Gators in the five years the twins have played field hockey against each other.

"We give each other time," said Shannon, "because you walk away from the field and it's deeper than just that. You have to deal with it at your house and look at the person who just beat you.

"As a goalie, you put a lot of the blame on yourself for the loss, so you don't want to go rubbing it around in each other's faces. There is a sportsmanship there, too, as well as sisterly love."

Before the game, well, that's another story.

The 17-year-old fraternal twins relentlessly tease each other and pull pranks around the house for days before each game. The hi-jinks should break out any minute now with another meeting due Friday, when No. 2 St. Paul's travels to No. 10 Roland Park at 3:45.

The sisters once chalked taunts all over the driveway. One night before the last game, a towel fight erupted. A few years back, there was a food fight involving mashed potatoes, but their mother, Kelly Burke, drew the line there and the twins haven't crossed it since.

"The stuff they do to each other - like leaving notes in each other's lunches, putting a piece of paper in the sandwich instead of lettuce, taking out the hard boiled egg and putting in a raw egg - it's really fun stuff," said Kelly Burke.

"It makes us grin. Just the creativity is fabulous. And the trash talking is not stuff you wouldn't want to hear. It's funny stuff."

The twins, now seniors, laugh about how their athletic careers began when they were about 6 or 7. Their mother captured that moment on film just after their last ballet recital. The photograph is still on display in the Burkes' living room.

"My dad gave us each a little bouquet of flowers," said Shannon, "and we were kissing him on both cheeks, but at the same time we were saying, `We don't want to do this any more, Dad. We want to do sports.' He was like, `Finally, yes,' so we signed up for the next sport there was.'

The girls followed their brother, Gibbs, now 19 and playing water polo at Loyola College, onto the athletic fields, starting off with soccer, basketball and softball.

All three siblings came by their athleticism naturally. Kelly Burke was a swimmer at Northern and their father, Chris Burke, who is 6 feet 10 1/2 , played high school football at Archbishop Curley.

At first, it appeared both girls would grow up to be Roland Park Reds, but K.C. - short for Kelly Christina - said Roland Park just wasn't the right fit for her. She transferred to Ruxton in second grade and then to St. Paul's in eighth.

Being at separate schools benefited both girls, who don't look alike or have similar personalities.

"This way, with different sets of teachers and friends and being separate, there's not that amount of comparison," said Kelly Burke. "They do get compared athletically, but they're much happier in their own environment."

They don't have to compete for that one spot as starting field hockey goalie, either.

While the split allegiance creates some heartache for the parents, it also results in considerable levity - especially when it comes to a wardrobe that must be half Roland Park red and half St. Paul's green.

Kelly Burke always wears red chili pepper pants, bright green shirt and a red, green and white Cat-In-The-Hat topper with a stuffed green gator on one side and a big red chili pepper on the other. She, of course, turns the hat around at halftime.

Chris Burke wears a more conservative green jacket and chili pepper tie as he videotapes the game from midfield.

"I think they measure the sidelines to make sure they're perfectly in the middle," said K.C, the older twin by one minute.

The twins aren't the only ones who get worked up before a St. Paul's-Roland Park hockey game. Many of their teammates have played club sports with the other twin and they all get caught up in the rivalry.

"You have traditional rivalries with other schools, but when you don't know anyone on the other team, it's not as much fun," said K.C.

Gators forward Megan Del Monte, who played club lacrosse with Shannon, engaged in some congenial trash talking on the train as the two made a lacrosse recruiting visit to Princeton together on Sept. 17.

"K.C. always gets really excited to play Shannon, and she uses that energy to drive us," said Del Monte. "It's competitive, but it's a friendly rivalry. We have a lot of fun with it."

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