Identical twins have been the source of countless studies including many on athletic performance.
Over the past two decades, Whanganui has benefited from the outstanding performances of the Spriggens and van Dalen twins. Now the Rennie twins look set to make their mark on the athletics scene.
Anna Spriggens first came to notice as a young 400 metre runner competing in 1998 when she ran under 60 seconds for the first time in Hamilton. Two years later, she was selected as a member of the New Zealand under 20 4 x 400 team to Santiago, Chile, in 2000 when still only 16. A year later she was chosen for the New Zealand Youth Team to Debrecen, Hungary.
Anna's twin sister Rachel was also accomplished over the one lap but, as is often the way with siblings, she chose to run a different event competing in the 800m and representing Sacred Heart with distinction.
In 2001 Rachel was a member of the Whanganui Schools team competing in the Australian Schools Championships over 800m in Melbourne (sister Anna had returned from Hungary injured and did not compete).
At the old Olympic Park, Rachel met a member of the Australian team who had competed in Hungary and had met Anna but completely refused to accept that Rachel was not Anna.
The twins often combined in club and centre relay teams notably with the Signal twins (Feilding) for Team McKechnie as a winning team in the Regional League, a feat that gained media attention.
The van Dalen twins followed very soon after the Spriggens twins, gaining national honours while at Whanganui Collegiate before ending their school days in Christchurch in 2006 with Lucy winning the 1500m and Holly the 3000m.
Holly finished second to her twin sister in the 1500m. They both made their international debut in Samoa at the Oceania Championships days later.
In the following year, they started their US scholarship at Stony Brook University (Long Island). Both became All Americans with Lucy making the New Zealand Olympic team to both the London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2016) and is still number two in the New Zealand all-time 1500m rankings.
Holly had an unfortunate run of injuries when looking set to make her mark over 5000m. Lucy and Holly should inspire any young athletes. They were promising but not startling at Year 9 level with both running virtually identical times.
In different heats of the 1500m at New Zealand Schools, they both finished as non-qualifiers with identical times. They were never more than metres apart in any race with similar running styles.
I remember announcing at a cross country race from a distance, correctly calling their positions as they entered the finishing area. I never told their mother that I had noted their shoe colours at the start as she could not believe I could distinguish from a distance when she could not.
The present crop of junior distance runners are faster than the van Dalens were but time will tell if they show the same application and progress.
The club has a new set of promising athlete twins with Teresa and Carrie Rennie giving strength and versatility to the Year 9 Whanganui High School team.
They have competed over an encouragingly wide range of events (important at that age of development) and like the aforementioned twins, are never far apart in time or position. At the Regional League meeting at Cooks Gardens 10 days ago Carrie won the 70m hurdles from her sister Teresa, separated by only two one-hundredths of a second (13.09s – 13.11s).
Earlier in the year, Carrie had shown her versatility by finishing a highly creditable 5th in the Schools Cross Country Challenge on the Collegiate golf course against strong opposition (Teresa was not available for that race). One such promising all-rounder in a team is great but having a twin is a bonus.
Let the Games begin
The qualifying period for the postponed Tokyo Olympics starts on Tuesday, December 1.
We are fortunate that Cooks Gardens will be hosting the first qualifying attempt in the world for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games with a major 1500m race at the end of next week's club night at 8.30pm.
The race will bring a whole group of New Zealand's best to run on the country's favourite middle distance venue. The field is strong and the goal is high which, if achieved will mean that Peter O'Donoghue's mark of 3m 38.03s will be consigned to history.
There will be further details in the Chronicle tomorrow. Our younger athletes are in for a real treat at club night. The Whanganui public can vociferously support the runners without any gate charge.