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Freshman Ryan Alexander joined her sister Megan – a junior — on Penn swimming this year. Despite the age gap, the sibiling have been competitive.

Photo: Freda Zhao

Sometimes, talent runs in the family. Sometimes, it swims.

For the two sets of siblings on Penn swimming and diving’s roster, the term “teammates” takes on a new meaning. The Alexander sisters and Hurwitz twin brothers add strong bonds to the team, both in and out of the pool.

“Immediately, it gives you someone you know on the team, so you have somebody who’s your biggest ally.” sophomore breaststroker Cole Hurwitz said.

Cole and brother Jordan Hurwitz have known this bond would exist from the start. When recruited, the identical twins made it clear to colleges that the pair from Portland, Ore. were a package deal. The brothers ultimately decided on Penn, which they believed would provide them a solid academic atmosphere while accepting two freshmen of the same event with relatively similar times.

“When we talked to schools, we told them that we wanted to come together, so we were a package deal,” Jordan said.

For freshman Ryan Alexander, the idea of joining her sister, junior Megan Alexander, was less enticing, as she approached swimming with her sister with mixed emotions. Recently, Ryan found the pro and con list she made of colleges before selecting for which school she would swim, and, as she explained, “one of the cons said ‘half-Megan.’”

“I had to decide whether I wanted to be with her or not,” said Ryan, who then continued, “Now swimming here ... I can’t imagine not swimming with her. I’m very happy with the decision I made.”

Indeed, while being siblings strengthens the teammate bond, it also strengthens another relationship: competitor. All four of them swim many of the same events as his or her sibling, which ratchets up the excitement of each race, especially when the siblings are in the same heat.

“It’s great for competition purposes,” Jordan said, who faces off against Cole in breaststroke events. “I’m definitely most competitive when I’m facing my brother.”

For the Alexanders, the age gap exacerbated the sibling rivalry in the past. The two described the intensity as heating up four years ago, when Megan was a high school junior in Marblehead, Mass. and Ryan was a freshman.

“I used to cry when she beat me,” Megan said. “Now it’s more, we’re on the same team, and I want her to be scoring points for us as much as I want to be scoring for the team.”

The shift to a more team-oriented outlook has not only helped the siblings grow as teammates, but as family. Even though Megan is two years older and in a different college than Ryan, the two get together frequently for lunch dinner, and Megan said the two “have become a lot closer.”

Similarly, the Hurwitz twins have strengthened their relationship through Penn swimming and plan to be roommates the rest of their college careers. Racing with each other has made them closer — though their teammates may argue that they were already close enough, especially physically.

“At first, they definitely couldn’t tell us apart,” Cole said. “Now ... it’s very rare for them to make a mistake.”

As the team enters the Total Performance Invitational tomorrow and the Ivy Championship in February, the Alexanders and Hurwitzes bring the Red and Blue extra doses of competition and, just as importantly, community.

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