Double trouble

With three sets of twins on his squad, it can take varying hairstyles to help C. Milton Wright's coach keep track of which one is which

Cross country

October 08, 2006|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,special to the sun

On the first day of practice, C. Milton Wright cross country coach Donnie Mickey was thrilled to see that Steve Otradavec had gotten a haircut.

It's not that Mickey thought Otradavec looked bad before he got a buzz cut. It's just that he had trouble telling Steve and his identical twin, Paul, apart.

Mickey could use similar help with some other Mustang runners because this year's team has three sets of twins - making the team one to watch for several reasons.

In addition to the Otradavecs, fraternal twins Nick and Tyler Baxter returned this season. And freshmen Ian and Zac Longenecker joined the Mustangs, giving Mickey his second set of identical twins.

"We've had twins before, but never this many," Mickey said. "It didn't really dawn on me until the first day of practice, and then I said, `Holy cow, it's twin city.' "

Mickey said the Baxters, who are seniors, are easy to tell apart. Tyler is about 5 feet 8, two inches taller than Nick, and has more freckles. Steve Otradavec's haircut has taken care of the problems Mickey had in distinguishing Steve from Paul, whose hair is longer. But the Longeneckers are a challenge.

They look so much alike, Mickey said, that he addresses them as Longenecker rather than taking a stab at their first names.

"I guarantee, especially with the Otradavecs and probably the Longeneckers, there's times when I've called them the wrong name," Mickey said. "Now that they're getting to know me, they're not afraid to correct me."

The Mustangs split their roster into A and B teams. The Longeneckers are on the B team, participating in races in which runners usually don't get numbers to wear on their jerseys. The twins are so hard to tell apart that after they race, Mickey and assistant coach Jeff Izzo often have to ask the brothers which one finished in which spot. Sometimes, even fans cheer for one twin when they mean to cheer for the other.

Even their family can't always tell the Longeneckers apart.

"If you put a swim cap on them, you can't tell them apart at all," said the boys' father, Jim Longenecker. "Even my wife and I have yelled out the wrong names. When they compete against each other in swimming, we just scream, `Go, Zac and Ian.' "

Others can't figure it out, either. Jim Longenecker said at last week's Bull Run meet at Hereford that a girl came up to his daughter, Rachel, and said, "I like your brother. I don't know which one it is, but it's the tall one."

Paul and Steve Otradavec, who are juniors, have had fun being twins. They used to fool their recreation league soccer coach by exchanging jerseys a few times during games. In ninth grade, they were in separate English classes with the same teacher, who kept mixing them up.

All three sets of twins are enjoying cross country because of the unusual situation.

"I've never had that many twins at one place before," Zac Longenecker said. "It's kind of fun because everybody who's a twin can relate to each other."

That has helped create a bond between the Baxters, the Longeneckers and the Otradavecs. The Baxters and the Otradavecs have known each other for a while. The Baxters and Longeckers will become more familiar with each other this winter when they compete together on the C. Milton Wright swim team.

"I try to use the correct first names with the Baxters because, if you're a twin, you know how it feels to be called the wrong name," Steve Otradavec said. "I'm used to it, but it gets kind of annoying. We haven't figured out the Longeneckers yet."

The personalities are slightly easier to distinguish. The Baxters say they are opposites but close; the Otradavecs have tried to establish their own identities while remaining good friends; and the Longeneckers are the toughest.

"We're different people, but we're pretty much the same interest-wise," Nick Baxter said. "It's just a lot of common stuff because we both like the same sports, and our friends are most of the same people."

Mickey will get another set of twins in the spring when Briana and Destiny Braddock join the Mustangs' track team as sprinters. But the Baxters usually play other sports during that season, so the Mustangs would still have three sets of twins.

Mickey said having the three sets of twins doesn't have much of an effect on the way he coaches but that he and Izzo are grateful to Steve for his new look.

"Coach Izzo thanked the Otradavecs for having different haircuts," Mickey said. "That was [helpful]."

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