ALEXANDRIA – Wednesday was the first day of autumn, which seemed like a fitting day to sit down with the girls of fall, otherwise known as the Hasz sisters, Megan and Bethany. The breaking news from our interview, conducted late in the school day in the commons area of Alexandria High School, was that the identical twin seniors will become collegiate cross-country and track athletes at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2016.
Until talking with them, I was unaware that they had made a college choice. They had done so in low-key fashion, informing the Gophers coaches that they would indeed accept Minnesota’s offer and telling coaches from other schools – most notably North Carolina and Michigan State – that they were headed to Dinkytown.
There was no news conference, no Tweets (neither of the girls has a Twitter account), not even a story in the local paper, the Alexandria Echo Press. The Hasz sisters are low on drama and low on flashiness. They just run, and run, and run, and run … until they win. (And they also don’t mind poking each other with a joke stick. More on that in a moment.)
They have made a significant mark at the MSHSL cross-country state championships. As eighth-graders in 2011 the sisters finished fourth (Megan) and fifth (Bethany). When they were ninth-graders in 2012, Bethany finished third at state and Megan was sixth. The last two years have been extra special.
In 2013 Bethany won the Class 2A state championship in dominating fashion; Megan was the runner-up, finishing 20 seconds behind her twin. At last year’s state meet the roles were reversed: Megan finished first with a four-second lead over Bethany.
Their farewell to high school cross-country will come at this year’s state meet, Nov. 7 at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Their prep careers will end next spring at the state track meet, where they also have made a lasting impression.
Bethany won the Class 2A 1,600- and 3,200-meter races last spring at state (Megan was injured and did not compete). In 2014 the twins placed second (Megan) and third (Bethany) in the 1,600 and third (Bethany) and fourth (Megan) in the 3,200.
Megan was slowed by a stress fracture in her left tibia last spring and the injury has resurfaced this fall. She raced in the season’s first meet, but pain in the leg came back.
“Right now my goal is to get back into running,” she said, a little frustrated with cross-training and elliptical workouts. “I think I might try running this weekend.”
The twins turned 18 on Sept. 9. Megan is the oldest, having been born 28 minutes before Bethany. Bethany stands 5 feet, 6 inches tall and Megan is 5-4 ½.
They both play the cello in a school orchestra. With a bit of a chuckle they admitted that they don’t practice much and aren’t in any danger of becoming the top cello players in Alexandria.
“Orchestra is pretty fun,” Megan said. Bethany added, “We are very close to the bottom (of the cello players in their orchestra). But we’re close to the bottom of the TOP orchestra.”
When they aren’t running or studying they like to bake or read. “Any kind of dessert, anything chocolate,” Megan said about baking. As for reading, their likes include Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and the Divergent series.
They said the choice to attend the University of Minnesota – 136 miles down Interstate 94 from Alexandria – was what Bethany called “a pretty easy decision.”
Megan said, “We stressed about it quite a bit at first. Then we kind of decided to make it easy for ourselves.”
Roommates since birth, they haven’t decided if they will room together in college. “She’s not that interesting,” Bethany said, looking at her sister with a smile. Megan replied, “Thank you, I appreciate that. I’m not that interesting. That’s true.”
There was also this humorous exchange about the distance from the high school to their home, a route they sometimes run … Bethany: “It’s a couple miles.” Megan: “It’s like four miles.” Bethany: “It’s probably about four, but it’s still not that far.”
And this discussion of trying to be more comfortable during interviews … Bethany: “I like to think I’ve gotten less awkward.” Megan: “You haven’t.”
They began receiving college recruiting letters when they were in ninth grade. They sometimes tried to make their parents nervous by suggesting they would attend different colleges.
“We definitely joked about it,” Megan said. “We joked about it with our parents, just to make it difficult for them. But they knew we wouldn’t go to two different places.”
Megan’s injury has caused some squirming, because it’s hard for any athlete to sit on the sideline while others are training.
“It’s so frustrating,” she said. “I want to be running and training. One of my biggest competitors (Bethany) is training really hard and I can’t.”
“It’s a friendly competition,” Megan added, to which Bethany said, “We’re very competitive. Megan is probably more competitive than I am.” Megan said, “We’re always happy for the other one if they do better.”
That’s indeed what cross-country fans expect to see at the 2015 state meet. Two girls from Alexandria, identical twin sisters, breaking away from the pack and racing to the finish line as the throng cheers them on.
The order in which they’ll finish? It doesn’t really matter.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 68
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 2,608
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn