“A Double Blessing” with Brooke and Blaire Dinsdale

The furthest we have ever been apart in terms of statistics was when we were born 29 minutes apart. In case you were wondering, Blaire won that “race” ;). That record was finally broken when our collegiate track and field careers came to an end. Brooke moved to Urbandale, Iowa, to live with her fiance and finish additional schooling to become a CPA. Blaire started a career with Northwestern Mutual in Waterloo, Iowa, 120 miles away from her sister, a new record of separation. Our 14+ year running careers started when we were eight years old. Our parents took us to track meets in Conrad, Iowa, during the summer months with several boys from North Tama; we were the only girls other than Sara Stoakes (North Tama, Kansas State).

Like every other little kid, we wanted to run the sprints: 100, 200, and 400 meter dashes. The picture below is one of a thousand words, to say the least! It was at these small meets where coaches from the Cedar Valley Track Club (CVTC) first saw us run. Soon after, coaches Steve Fagerlind and Norm Granger approached us and our parents at a basketball game at North Tama with a CVTC brochure and invited us to be part of the track club with their daughters. We soon began training and running various relays with Faith Burt (Cedar Falls, Wartburg) and Becca Fagerlind (Denver, Wartburg), and many other girls over our ~6 years with the club. Several years later in 2006, we teamed up with Betsy Flood (Dowling Catholic, Iowa) and Colette Gnade (Waukee, Virginia) to win two 4×800 national titles in 2006 (AAU and USATF).

Traveling across the country to state, regional, national, and various other meets during the summers opened up our eyes to the world of Track & Field beyond small-town Iowa, and we found something we truly loved being a part of. When we started seventh grade, we played volleyball because cross country was not an option for junior high students. Brooke broke four fingers during the first week and sat out the rest of the season. When track rolled around in the spring, our junior high coach, Judy Boerm, noticed something we did not. Every day after school, the team had to run to the track from the school (approximately 1 mile) for their warm-up. We beat everyone, including most of the boys, by several minutes. We reluctantly admitted we were no longer sprinters. It took some convincing, but finally we gave in and ran our first 800s on a 4×800 relay, both splitting around the three minute mark. Little did we know, we would shave nearly a minute off of our times in the years to come.

In eighth grade, our parents convinced the school to allow us to run cross country and practice with the high school team. We were able to travel to meets with the team where there was an open or junior high race. The races would be either one or two miles and most of the time were co-ed. Either way, we usually finished in the top few, beating almost every boy. Our friendly, sisterly rivalry soon developed and our competitiveness in almost every aspect of our lives enabled us to succeed into high school. Our parents continuously supported us and pushed us to be the best, but they didn’t have to say much.

Because we were twins, we always wanted to be “the faster one” when the commonly asked question arose, “Which one is faster?” When one was able to finish faster or had a better race, the other was eager to move on to the next race to change that. However, we always struggled with viewing each other as “just another competitor.” Racing your twin is not only a physical battle but a mental one too. Because we were so close in every event from the 400m through cross country, Blaire began hurdling and running the shorter events. Brooke kept to the 800 and up and never had interest in hurdling. Whenever Blaire ran the hurdles, Brooke would attempt to watch, but once the gun went off, she would cover her eyes because she was always scared Blaire would hit a hurdle and fall.

Throughout our running careers, our nerves would almost always be greater for each others’ races than our own. The reasoning for this is hard to put into words; we just wanted the best for each other and hated seeing each other fail. We always shared in the joy or pain after the other’s great or not-so-great performance. We knew each others’ strengths and weaknesses inside and out, and therefore became each other’s worst (or best) enemy. We both wanted to be the best, but yet felt guilty when one had to come in second. For example, at the state XC meet our senior year, Blaire knew Brooke was aiming for her third 1A title which had never been done before. Blaire had never won state XC. She wanted two things: gold and for her sister to stand alone in the record books as a 3-time state champ.Together in the 4k race until ~400m to go, Blaire knew she could win, and as she took off without a response from her twin, she felt guilty. Blaire apologized to her sister after she crossed the line in defeat. Brooke was happy her sister finally had an XC title and probably would have felt bad too if Blaire would not have won.

Many people ask if we ever got mad at each other, got in fights because of running, or if there was tension around the house. The answer to that is yes and no. There was always tension, but it was more competitiveness, eagerness, and a revenge-type of positive tension! The only time we can ever remember being mad was after the race pictured earlier when Brooke out-leaned Blaire at Nationals. Blaire was extremely upset with her sister because she had led the entire race until the very last step. She remembers being in tears over the next 24-hours and not speaking to her sister (Blaire had also gotten 2nd place a couple weeks earlier at USATF Nationals to Chanelle Price who now runs for Tennessee). So, two second places at Nationals didn’t sit well, but we soon made up because Blaire quickly realized that she was happy it was Brooke who out-leaned her and not someone else. event is nothing shy of a daily challenge.

We always wanted the best for each other and didn’t want to see one left out of a race or competition, but this happened multiple times throughout our careers. When Blaire received a phone call in the summer of 2007 to be on the USA World Youth team who would travel to the Czech Republic, her first words to the man on the phone were “What about Brooke?” The top two in the U.S. in each event made the team. Chanelle Price (Tennessee) was #1, Blaire was #2, and Brooke was #3. Blaire remembers being in tears for almost the entire phone call after realizing her sister was not going to the meet with her. The international meet was the first meet one of us would ever run without the other. Such things happened again during our college careers when one would qualify for a meet or a final and the other would not; this was one of the hardest things about being twins.

Another big decision we faced as twins was choosing which University to continue pursuing our dreams on the track and in the classroom. People always asked us if we wanted to or eventually would attend the same school. We never really had a definite answer until the time came to make a commitment. After visiting four out-of-state universities and the three in-state universities, our top school was initially different. Blaire’s top choice was Nebraska; Brooke’s was not.The school we both ultimately chose to attend was going to be the one we each individually believed to be the right one, which so happened to be the same after much thought, Nebraska. When we signed our letters of intent, we knew we were taking on a challenge going to the same school as twins.

Our teammates and the athletic staff came to know us as the Dinsdale twins and referred to us as such because most of them couldn’t tell us apart and neither could our coaches half the time. We found this frustrating because to us we were two separate people: Brooke Dinsdale and Blaire Dinsdale, not Brooke and Blaire Dinsdale. We were never ashamed of being twins, we just wanted to be two individuals instead of “the twins” 24/7. Nonetheless, we knew it was inevitable. Brooke got engaged our junior year at Nebraska and joked about getting married before graduation so she could be known on the track with a different last name.

One last moment we shared together as teammates before everything came to an end was an extremely low period. On April 2, everything was going well during their track workout when Brooke had a sharp, terrifying pain in her foot that forced her to fall to the track on her knees. Usually plantar fasciitis slowly develops before it hits, but that day was the first pain Brooke had ever felt, which led her and trainers to believe she may have torn the tendon. Blaire developed the same injury (we are twins, of course) at the end of her freshman season and took a few weeks in the summer to recover. Brooke was forced to sit out for a couple of weeks during her final season and cross-train. It was her first ever running injury, and she was miserable. She has Blaire to thank for getting her through that time and keeping her head up when it was hard to even get going in the morning. Brooke honestly believed her senior year had come to a much-too-early screeching end, but somehow she managed to run a couple of 2:09s and make the conference team. It was times like this that we grew closer and we’re so thankful we were together for someone to lean on.

Looking back on our running careers, we sometimes wonder what if. What if we weren’t twins? What if we went to different Universities? What if only one of us ran or had a lot more success than the other? In the end though, none of this matters. What matters is that we enjoyed and will continue to enjoy every second of being twins and are blessed with something only we, as twins, can understand. We have something truly special. And the ironic thing is, we ended our collegiate running careers in “twinlike fashion” like many other moments in our lives (who would have thought with different majors, our final college GPAs were .001 apart, Brooke won that “race!”). Both of our last races (Brooke’s at the Big 10 Conference meet, Blaire’s at the NCAA Preliminary Rounds), were very disappointing 2:11’s. When we think of those 2:11’s now, we remember how shocked we were entering high school and seeing that our 800 school record was a 2:11 held by Janice Ohrt who went to school with our Mom and then ran at Nebraska (only one season, struggled with injuries). Never in our wildest dreams did we think we could break that record when first seeing it. And without each other, we most likely wouldn’t have.

Our feelings are somewhat mixed now that college track is over. We did not end with superb races, although Blaire did break her PR in the 800 that she set as a 15-year old and had been chasing since. She ran a PR of 2:06 during our outdoor home meet before conference and two 2:07’s at conference that beat her previous 2:07 PR set in 2006. The things we remember most about our time at Nebraska, though, are the best ones: being on the conference teams together that won the last Big 12 Indoor title and first Big 10 Indoor title for Nebraska, running our PRs, traveling across the country with each other and great teammates, making new friends that we will never forget, running at the Drake Relays twice with the all-Iowa quartet, and so many other moments that would take up too many lines. We are SO blessed! Finally, we wanted to say a quick thank you to the people who followed our careers and the support, blessings, and encouragement we received. Without all of you, we would not be writing this story or have made the hundreds of memories we have as twin runners.

Athletes cannot be successful without fans, and we truly appreciate each and every one of the people who played a role in our careers. A special thank you to Mike Jay, The Voice Of Track & Field (which many of us refer to him as), for being the biggest fan of all (apart from each other of course) during our races on the blue oval and at Nebraska’s home meets, a friend, and for giving us the opportunity to write this story. A final special thank you to our parents – we couldn’t have asked for a better Mom and Dad who have continued to support and believe in us through every joy and every struggle.

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