Oct. 19, 2010
By Jennifer Eder
If you attend a GW soccer game or a swim meet this fall, don't be alarmed if you think you're seeing double.
Each varsity team has a set of identical twins this year - a phenomenon that's causing confusion not just for fans but their coaches and teammates too.
Growing up Sloan and Sydney Saunders spent their summers in the pool swimming for a club team in Danville, CA. Both naturals for sprinting, the twins began swimming the same events - the 50-meter and 100-meter - quickly becoming competitive against one another.
"With us, there was always a winner and a loser. We used to not even congratulate each other, but now we've matured a little," says Sloan.
Initially the Saunders twins didn't want to go to the same college, but after visiting GW's swimming team, they knew they both belonged in Foggy Bottom.
"We instantly fit in here," says Sydney. "The swim team is our family."
"When we could walk, we started playing soccer," says Tobey.
The twins played on a competitive club team. Casey played mostly as a central defender, while Tobey played center midfield or outside midfield.
During the college recruiting process, the Wood twins sent emails to coaches saying "two of us are better than one."
"We agreed that if someone got a really good offer, we wouldn't hold each other back. But we did want to play together, and thankfully GW figured out how to get us both here," Tobey says.
Three months into the season, George Lidster, GW's soccer coach, still struggles telling the Wood twins apart.
"Thankfully they wear different color cleats and have different numbered jerseys," says Coach Lidster. "The first two weeks of the season I got their names wrong 90 percent of the time."
Sloan and Sydney are almost impossible to tell apart when they're in the pool. Not only do they look identical, they swim the same events, have an identical looking stroke and have about the same times.
"There are times when I can tell them apart, and times when I just guess," says Coach Dan Rhinehart.
Thankfully, Sydney started wearing a lightening bolt earring in one ear as a way to distinguish herself from Sloan.
"Thank God she wears that earring," says Coach Rhinehart. "But I still try to put them in separate lanes during practice."
Both the Saunders and the Wood twins say they want to be seen as individuals not just twins.
"As twins you struggle to create your own identity," says Casey.
Despite looking identical, sharing a suite in Crawford Hall and having the same friends, the Wood twins have distinct interests and career goals. Casey, a freshman in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, wants to study political communication and aspires to be a senator. Tobey, a freshman in the School of Business, wants to be an investment banker.
Sloan, a freshman in the School of Public Health and Health Services, is studying exercise science and hopes to be a pediatric orthopedist or an athletic trainer. Sydney is majoring in civil engineering at the School of Engineering and Applied Science and hopes to eventually work in sustainable architecture.
While getting mistaken for your twin gets old after a while, both sets of twins say they love being a twin because you have a permanent best friend.
But with such closeness inevitably comes competition.
Tobey and Casey will be competing for playing time, while Sloan and Sydney will be racing against each other in several events.
Three other varsity sports teams at GW have siblings on their roster.
Sisters sophomore Juliana Stern and senior Jessica Stern compete on the women's cross country team, while their brother, James Stern, a freshman, runs on the men's cross country team.
MacKenzie Knox, a junior, and her sister Taylor Knox, a freshman, play on the women's volleyball team. Junior Michael Nair plays on the men's squash team, while his sister Maya Nair, a freshman, plays on the women's team. Similarly sisters Eliza Ehrlich, a senior, and Catherine Ehrlich, a freshman, play on the women's squash team, while their brother, sophomore Sam Ehrlich, plays on the men's team.
"It's a completely different experience when you have a brother or sister on your team," says Casey. "You're the first one to criticize him, but you're the first one to support him."