SURREY — We didn’t know who they were or where they lived in the neighbourhood, but we knew one thing – these girls could run.
For years, my neighbours and I have watched them, amazed by both their stamina and synchronization.
As we watched them run – and run, and run, and run – we talked about how these girls were going to be big one day. “We’ll be watching them on TV soon,” we all agreed.
I always wanted to write about these girls but never got a chance to meet them – until now.
I have good friends who live a few units down from us. Their front yard faces the baseball diamond at Hillcrest Elementary school in Cloverdale. It offers an excellent right-field view of ball games (if someone hit a home run over the right-field fence, it would bounce into their yard).
During the past several years, many summer days have been spent there sipping beer and eating snacks while watching a ball game or two.
That’s how we came to know about the twins.
“The twins are out again,” someone would say. “Let’s see how long they run for today.”
And run they would. While we lounged lazily in the sun, we watched the pair effortlessly run countless laps.
No matter how many songs blared from our stereo or how many beers were cracked or innings we watched, the twins would still be running. It seemed like they would never stop.
And the way they ran!
Every movement they made was in unison, perfectly in sync with one another. Even their ponytails seemed to bounce in perfect time.
“I should write a story about those girls,” I said one day, “before they become Olympic champions.”
A few weeks ago, I was playing catch with my son on the diamond at Hillcrest when out of the corner of my eye, I saw the twins.
I ran over to them (not an easy task, you know) and told them who I was and that I had been wanting to write a story about them for some time now.
They looked at each other and smiled. One of the girls said, “sure.”
It turns out their names are Julie and Christina Sevsek. They are 17 and attend Clayton Heights Secondary school.
Christina is the younger sister, by two minutes. She says it’s no surprise I have seen them running before – they run more than one hour a day, six times a week.
They’ve been running since Grade 3.
“We signed up for cross country and we thought it would be interesting,” Christina said. “We found out we were really good at it and we just continued on because we really enjoyed it.”
Nine years later, the twins are still running, happy to make sacrifices for the sport they love.
“We’re always training, 24/7, so we don’t have many friends because we’re always running,” Christina says. “But running is my passion.”
“I love running to push myself, and training hard to reach my goals,” Julie says.
In case you were wondering, Julie wears a headband while running, and it’s pretty much the only way you can tell them apart.
Julie says my neighbours and I aren’t the only ones who have noticed her and her sister in our neighbourhood.
“A lot of people ask us, ‘How many laps are you doing’ and are always wondering why we are running.”
And Julie says people regularly make comments about their synchronized running style.
“They say we look like one person, saying we move our arms at the same time.”
The Sevsek twins’ passion and dedication for their sport translates into success – a lot of it.
The day before our interview, Christina earned first place at the Fraser Valley Cross Country Championships and Julie took second.
“One sister takes gold and the other silver? How does that work?” I asked Christina, knowing firsthand how sibling rivalry works.
“Yeah, we are really competitive,” she admits. “But that’s why it’s really fun to train with each other, because we push each other.”
“But,” I asked her, “you always get along, right?”
“Yeah,” she replied, with a nervous chuckle.
More recently, both sisters earned spots on the team that will represent B.C. at the Canadian Cross Country Championships, after Christina placed second and Julie placed fourth at provincials.
How did they celebrate?
“We went for a run,” Julie said.
Of course they did.
The Canadian Cross Country Championships are set for Nov. 25 in Kingston, Ont. If the twins run well there, they will represent Canada at the World Cross Country Championships in Uganda in March.
Christina knows what it takes to win at nationals. She earned a spot on Team Canada last year and competed at the world cross country championships in Venezuela. She says running at worlds, against older girls, was an experience she will never forget.
“Is it the highlight of your running career?” I asked.
Their success comes as no surprise to coach Scott Kent.
“I’ve coached a lot of kids over the last 14 years or so,” said the founder and head coach at Coastal Track Club in South Surrey.
“I’ve never met two more focused individuals. They are extremely dedicated and regimented. They are just so focused on wanting to do everything right to get to where they want to go.”
Kent has been working with the twins since March. That’s when they came to him looking to improve their stride, which they were told was too long.
“Running is not just about how hard you can train, you have to be smart about it too,” he said.
“In Julie and Christina’s case, their stride was unchecked for four years. They thought if they wanted to get faster, they just had to get a longer stride.”
After months of hard work, their form is now where it needs to be.
“We’ve been very, very tough on them but their form has completely changed now. It’s way more efficient and it’s engaging their core. They’re now using their hips,” Kent said.
“There isn’t any limitations on their form now. Now their stride is giving them a chance to really compete at that level they want to compete at. They needed to make the adjustments – and they have made the adjustments,” he added.
“I’ve very proud of them.”
I told Kent about how my neighbours and I would watch them run for hours on end, and how we would make predictions about their Oympic-gold-medal futures.
“I wouldn’t put it past them,” he responded. “They’ll bleed before they let somebody beat them. Something drives them deep down inside that you can’t teach.
“These kids are driven. I already know they have the talent. If they can mature and keep growing like they are, there’s nothing that can stop them.”