Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana


June 8, 2013

Neeley twins shine at state, but never act like stars

I hate making mistakes. I mean, who doesn’t?

Mistakes that were easily avoidable are the worst.

As soon as I see a mistake I’ve made in a story, I automatically cringe and think to myself “Way to go, genius, you just showed 20,000 people that you don’t proofread or check your facts very well.”

Spelling a kid’s name wrong makes me feel awful. Misidentifying a kid takes me to a whole other level of self loathing.

Since I landed in Kokomo in 2010, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover some of the best teams and individual athletes this area has ever seen. Eastern’s girls track and field teams of recent memory are at the top of that list.

The Neeley sisters, twins Bethany and Brittany, are just about as identical as two people can get. As a result, I’ve misidentified one for the other and vice versa for the last three and a half years.

Covering them in cross country, basketball and track, I’d come to a point last winter where I felt comfortable enough to differentiate between the two if they were standing together.

The secret is in the smile. Bethany has a bit more pronounced lower jaw than her sister, while Brittany’s grin is a little more toothy than Bethany’s.

I’m not the only one here at the Tribune who has trouble identifying them. Photographer Kelly Lafferty is in a similar boat. At Eastern’s state finals media day last week, Kelly snapped photos of the athletes while I conducted interviews for stories that were to run later in the week.

Kelly asked me if I could help her identify kids in her photos later on that night, a way for everyone involved to save a little time. Feeling confident I knew all the state finalists by face, and the Neeley sisters by smile, I told her “no problem” and went about my workday.

Later on that night, Kelly brought the photos over for me to identify kids, just as I promised I would. I flip to the photo of Eastern’s girls state finalists, and wouldn’t you know, neither Neeley sister is smiling.

Having been thrown for a loop, I took to Twitter to try and find someone who was: A. Awake at 1 a.m. and B. Possessing enough knowledge of the Neeley twins to differentiate one from the other.

It was my lucky day, as former Eastern girls basketball coach Jeremy Dexter saw my tweet and offered help. Disaster averted.

I’d gotten in the habit of trying to guess which twin I was talking to before I’d start any of the numerous interviews we’d done over the years. Saturday’s girls state finals rolled around and I took full advantage of my final opportunity to misidentify the duo as high school athletes.

The Comets’ 4x800-meter relay team set a new state record in racing to a state title in the day’s first event. Twitter has become my most recent addiction, and as a result, I tweeted in-race updates from my seat in press row.

Eastern threw me a curveball right out of the gate. I’d gotten used to seeing them in green, gold and white uniforms, but they trotted out in black uniforms for the first time in my tenure here at the Tribune, so it took me most of the first leg — freshman Jessie Sprinkles’ two laps — to figure out exactly who I needed to be watching.

Sprinkles finished her leg, passed the baton to senior Sarah Wagner, and after Wagner completed her leg, she passed the baton to who I thought was Bethany Neeley. My logic on the subject was that Brittany’s signature individual event, the 800 run, would make her the prime candidate to run the anchor leg on the 4x800 relay. So I tweeted along that Bethany passed five or six competitors on her way to putting Eastern in the lead for Brittany, the anchor leg.

I had it wrong. Bethany was the anchor leg, meaning Brittany ran the third leg and was responsible for Eastern’s charge to the front of the pack. I got the news when I headed down to the track to conduct post-race interviews.

Kids and parents are usually not happy when writers misidentify kids, and rightfully so. We get paid to get things right.

But, Brittany and Bethany were so gracious about it. Gracious to the point that I should’ve been blown away, but as I’ve gotten to know them over the years, it came as no surprise.

For two kids who have reached a level of athletic superstardom rarely before seen in this area, you’d never know it by their humility.

As coach Michael Goodspeed put it, “they are as nice as they are good ... They don’t bring an ego or pride even though they have every reason to be able to do that.”

A combined five state titles and two IHSAA mental attitude awards in tow, their days of relative obscurity will soon be coming to an end as they move on to compete at Indiana University. I don’t know if living in the cornfields of rural Howard County has enabled their humility or not, but I’m willing to bet the grand stages of the Big Ten, the NCAA championships and maybe even onward won’t change who they are as people.

Fame makes maintaining humility very hard, but I have a feeling it won’t affect Bethany and Brittany Neeley.  

I don’t know if we’ll ever see anything like them — on or off the athletic surface — ever again. I feel fortunate to have had a front row seat as they’ve made the Tribune area, and the state, their stage for the past four years.

I don’t see the duo forgetting where they come from any time soon.

Josh Sigler is a sports reporter for the Kokomo Tribune. He may be reached for comment at Josh.Sigler@kokomotribune.com.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • WHS Lgn soccer 03 Western routs Logan in girls soccer The difference for Western's girls soccer team was night and day. The Panthers had a night to think about what went wrong in a 2-1 loss at Frankfort on Wednesday, then came out with a different approach Thursday and thrashed Logansport 8-0.

    August 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Prep roundup for Friday, Aug. 22 Western's boys cross country team took the top scoring spots in each of the three races at the Northwestern Combo meet on Thursday, combining to win the event in a time of 54:43. Tipton was second (60:41), Northwestern third (61:49) and Maconaquah fourth (62:17). The rest of the teams were incomplete.

    August 22, 2014

  • High school football kicks off tonight Week 1 of the high school football season is here. Four of the five Howard County schools hit the road for their openers. Taylor is the lone Howard County squad at home tonight. Kokomo visits Mount Vernon, Eastern makes the short trip to Oak Hill for the squads' 18th straight meeting in Week 1, Western visits Frankfort for the squads' 16th straight opener, and Northwestern travels to Clinton Central. Taylor hosts North White in a matchup of future Hoosier Heartland Conference opponents. Like Eastern and Western, several KT-area squads are in rivalry matchups including Tipton (at Hamilton Heights), Cass (vs. Pioneer) and Maconaquah (at North Miami). The start times of several games tonight have been pushed back in anticipation of a hot, humid tonight. Here is tonight's schedule: 7 p.m. kickoffs • Kokomo at Mount Vernon • North White at Taylor • Pioneer at Cass • Maconaquah at North Miami • Peru at Wabash • Tipton at Hamilton Heights • Carroll at Tri-County 7:30 p.m. kickoffs • Western at Frankfort • Northwestern at Cl. Central • Eastern at Oak Hill • Tri-Central at Lapel|High school football kicks off tonightWeek 1 of the high school football season is here. Four of the five Howard County schools hit the road for their openers. Taylor is the lone Howard County squad at home tonight.Kokomo visits Mount Vernon, Eastern

    August 22, 2014

  • SPL - KT082214 - Tom Lindley column - Lindley column sig LINDLEY: Another stumble begs questions about ND Not again. Not Notre Dame. Sorry, Irish fans. It’s sad but true. The stench of academic fraud — followed by a sweeping investigation — is back in the air in South Bend.

    August 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPL - KT082114 Brett Bowman column-pic Smackdown gets rolling tonight The three biggest nights of the USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series’ season kick off tonight and conclude Saturday night with the third-running of the Stoops’ Freightliner Sprint Car Smackdown at the Kokomo Speedway.The event is rapidly gaining mo

    August 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Kokomo tennis 04 Prep roundup for Thursday, Aug. 21: Kokomo tennis tops Alex Kokomo’s boys tennis team topped Alexandria 4-1 on the Wildkat courts on Wednesday to even the Kats’ record at 1-1.The No. 1 doubles team of Blake Brookshire and Joey Hurlocker won 6-2, 6-4 and were the first point off the court for the Kats. The No.

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taylor fball practice 01 Titans adjusting on the fly to new coach When Taylor found itself without a football coach after the sudden departure of Eric Davis in the first week of preseason practice, the school turned to one person who couldn’t say no, no matter how difficult the situation.Long-time girls basketball

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • EHSvsPeruFB 19 Peru looks to take another step in the right direction The Peru football team posted a 4-6 record last year, which marked the Bengal Tigers’ best showing since the 2000 team went 7-5.Peru coach Bob Prescott would like to build on its 2013 success.“We are trying to improve every day, and taking it one day

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jenkins card Greatest Save brings Major Leaguers to Kokomo Community First Bank Executive Vice President Bob Hickman saw first hand the great benefits and excitement the Greatest Save program brought to the community of Evansville the last two years. He watched as Major League Baseball legends like Rollie Fi

    August 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • Age no opponent for some of NFL's veteran stars NEW YORK (AP) — There's something stunning happening on Michael Vick's head. You can't see them from far away, but up close, tiny gray hairs are starting to emerge — color-sapped reminders that the New York Jets quarterback is no longer the speedy y

    August 20, 2014

Featured Ads
SportsKT twitter
More kokomotribune.com
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Okla. Policeman Accused of Sex Assaults on Duty Raw: Egypt Bus Crash Kills at Least 33 Two Bodies Found in Adjacent Yards Dominican Republic Bans Miley Cyrus Concert Raw: Israeli Air Strike in Gaza Raw: Rescue Efforts Suspended at Japan Landslide Raw: Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in Malaysia Raw: Smaller Marches in Ferguson Marathon Suspect's Friend Pleads Guilty Attorney: Utah Eatery Had Other Chemical Burn Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer Ky. Firefighters Hurt in Ice Bucket Challenge Federal Investigation Will Look at Use of Force Community Deals With Michael Brown Aftermath US: We Do Not Pay Ransom to Terrorists Ferguson Teachers Training to Deal With Trauma Jon Hamm on the Unrest in Ferguson Tit for Tat? McDonald's Shuttered in Moscow Life on the Professional Video Game Circuit

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.