One sis, two sis, Red sis, Blue sis.
For the members of Penn women’s swimming, their team can take on a sort of family-type quality. But there are two pairs of actual sisters that represent the Red and Blue in the pool. Megan and Ryan Alexander, and Maddie and Libby Jardeleza form the two sibling bonds on the squad, each one representing a different class at Penn.
Beyond sharing the fact that they have a sister on the team, however, the comparisons for the two duos don’t go much further.
“They’re interesting,” coach Mike Schnur said. “I mean, I’ve only had Libby now for two months, but Libby and Maddie are nothing alike at all, whereas Ryan and Megan are carbon copies of each other.”
Megan, a senior, and Ryan, a sophomore, do seem to have a lot more in common with one another than the Jardelezas. While the Alexanders swim similar events, junior Maddie tends to gravitate toward distance events, while freshman Libby sticks to the sprints.
For the rest of the team, the similarities between Megan and Ryan are hard to ignore.
“I think sometimes people tend to group us together, like ‘Oh, they’re the Alexander sisters,’” Megan commented.
“Ryan and Megan are the same person. They look alike, they talk alike, they swim alike, they act alike, they’re identical,” Schnur added.
One thing the younger siblings did share was a slight reticence to follow in their sisters’ footsteps. Ryan looked at other options while being recruited, and Schnur noted that Libby explored a handful of different schools too. Libby also talked with Ryan about what it was like to swim with a sister, something that helped make her decision a little easier.
“Penn wasn’t initially a factor in my decision early on in the process,” Ryan said. “I loved Penn when I came to campus, but I told my mom that I wanted to go here, if only Megan wasn’t at Penn.”
“I really didn’t want to come at first,” Libby admitted. “I wanted [Maddie] to have her space and me to have mine, so I was looking at other schools and then kind of looking at Penn. But as soon as I came here, I just fell in love with it, and she just really wanted me to come here because she knew that I would love it too.”
Although having a sister on the team complicated the younger swimmers’ decisions, it proved to make things more interesting once they got on campus.
“Yeah, they kill each other,” Schnur laughed, talking about the Alexander duo. “It’s great. We all laugh at them. Everybody laughs at them, because they’re so competitive with each other, which is great.”
For both sets of sisters, swimming together doesn’t mean just spending time together in the pool. Megan and Ryan live together in an off-campus house, and Maddie and Libby plan to be in the same house next year, too. Fortunately, the siblings are all still able to maintain somewhat separate lives.
According to Maddie, the elder Jardeleza, "It's not too difficult because we have different interests. So [Libby] has her group of friends and her class on the team also. They’ll do separate events like dinners and stuff like I will with the upperclassmen."
“But even though sometimes it’s hard to get a hold of her, and I don’t see her as much as I thought I would, we still make time for each other.”
And although the arrangement seems to work out for everyone on the team, the biggest benefactors aren’t a part of Penn swimming.
As Ryan noted, “It’s nice to be able to have her close by, and our parents can wear the same shirts for both of us since we both go to the same school.”
“In all of their cases,” Schnur agreed, “It was a lot of Mom and Dad telling the younger siblings that they would like to have them in the same place. So the best helper I have in recruiting is Mom and Dad.”
For the Alexanders and Jardelezas, calling the swim team their family has an entirely different meaning. And none of them would have it any other way.
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