At a small school like Redmond’s Bear Creek School, one will often find that the sports programs there are very close-knit, like a family.
For four pairs of Grizzly sisters, however, they take that meaning quite literally.
During the 2011-12 school year, the Jones, Isbell, Englestone and Fernandez families each have two girls that not only attend Bear Creek, but also get to spend time on the fields, courts and tracks together as teammates – and best friends.
JONES TWINS HAVE LOTS TO CHEER ABOUT
Seniors Laurel and Gwen Jones have something in common that the other three pairs of sisters don’t – they are identical twins.
In fact, it’s so hard to tell them apart, they have their first names sewn into their the corner of their cheerleading skirts as a form of identification.
While the Joneses haven’t played any actual sports during their time at Bear Creek’s Upper School, they have been supporting their fellow Grizzly athletes throughout the year on the sidelines, both being third-year cheerleaders.
They said that being twins, the traditional sibling rivalry was mostly centered upon academics, rather than athletics.
“There’s a lot more direct comparison, like on tests and stuff,” explained Laurel. “Not so much in sports, because we were at the same level.”
As far as their chosen extracurricular, they both agreed that having someone there to lean on and learn from during such a technical activity was vital to their success.
“It’s a lot easier to have someone to help you learn the dances,” Gwen said. “(Cheer) is a strange sport, because we do most of our hard work at the practices … but it’s nice to get to lift everyone up.”
SOCCER BRINGS ISBELLS TOGETHER
For senior Danielle Isbell and her freshman sister Whitney, soccer has been a way of life.
The girls began playing competitive soccer in the first grade, and have progressed through the ranks up to being varsity starters on the Grizzlies’ team.
The Isbells agreed that there wasn’t too much of a rivalry between them growing up due to the three-year gap in age, but instead they feed off each others’ drive for success on the soccer field.
“We play different positions, but we push each other because we both work really hard,” said Danielle, who anchored the team’s defense. “There’s actually less competitiveness between us in soccer.”
For a ninth-grader like Whitney, an attacking midfielder who earned a starting spot on the team, it could have been difficult to assimilate herself with all the seniors on the team.
But that’s where big sis came in.
“It was nice to go into a sport having an older sister, because it helped me socialize with upperclassmen,” she said, adding that getting to play soccer with Danielle has helped them know each other better.
Last October, the Isbell sisters experienced the thrill of a lifetime in winning the 2B state soccer championship together, but whether they win or lose, it’s all about spending time with each other.
“We just came from shopping all day,” laughed Danielle, who also plans to run track with her sister in the spring. “She’s my best friend. I love doing everything with her.”
COMPETITIVE FIRE DRIVES ENGELSTONES
Out of the four sister duos, one thing stood out among senior Kendall Engelstone and her sophomore sister Kristina.
“We are both REALLY competitive,” said Kendall, with her younger sister mock-glaring back, “EXTREMELY competitive.”
Having both been playing basketball since they could walk, the hardwood has always been the home of the Engelstone girls.
Growing up playing in club teams and the strong Bear Creek basketball program, they found that intense rivalry burning between them helped give them an extra edge.
“I think it’s always been a good thing, because it always pushes us to be better,” said Kristina. “I’ll spend that extra 20 minutes in the gym just so I can beat her out on the next set of lines. I think that we both try to work hard. It’s friendly competition.”
This year, however, their competitiveness took a twist, as both are part of the Grizzlies’ varsity starting five. The younger Kristina runs the floor as the team’s point guard, while Kendall, a forward, is one of four Grizzly quad-captains.
“There’s a constant chemistry of knowing passing, and knowing where she will be,” explained Kristina on playing with, instead of against, her sister. “It’s nice to have someone on the court that will have your back.”
Added Kendall, “It’s difficult at times, but it’s been fun. We’ve grown a lot together and learned a lot about each other through the seasons.”
ALL IN THE FERNANDEZ FAMILY
The Fernandez family is deeply entrenched in The Bear Creek School, from mom Sini, the school’s Communications Associate, to daughters Elizabeth (senior) and Catherine (sophomore), as well as Elizabeth’s twin brother Lucas, who runs track and plays basketball and soccer for the Grizzlies.
While both girls are multiple-sport stars as well, the sisters’ favorite activity is volleyball, having shared the court together last fall during the Grizzlies’ fifth-place run at state.
Much like the Isbells, the younger Fernandez credited her sister with helping her fit in on a senior-laden team.
“I’d never played volleyball with rotation, so it was nice to have a sister that could show me the ropes,” Catherine admitted. “She was an upperclassman, so I felt okay talking to the older girls on the team. She was a nice mentor throughout the whole season.”
Elizabeth started playing in sixth grade for the school, and has been playing club since eighth grade. She said that she was more competitive with Lucas growing up than with her younger sister, but is always eager to help her out on the court.
“We have different friends and we’re different ages, but it’s fun to share something outside of being family,” Elizabeth said.
Catherine added, “Our whole entire school is a family, and she’s just part of that.”