Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

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.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • SPL - KT071514 - B1 briefs - mug Athlete of the Week: Tionna Brown ATHLETE OF THE WEEK• NAME: Tionna Brown• SPORT: Track and field• ACCOMPLISHMENTS: The Kokomo seventh grader won three events at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic national meet in Humble, Texas, in her first appearance at a national meet. Brown w

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brown wins 3rd title at nationals HUMBLE, Texas — Kokomo middle schooler Tionna Brown surged to first in the 100 meter dash at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic national meet Sunday, capping the weekend with her third championship.Competing in the girls 11-12-year-old division,

    July 28, 2014

  • SPL - KT072614 - Dana Neer column - column sig NEER: Starting and sustaining your workouts Here we go again, hoping to start your workout plan again on Monday. This time your plan is to make it stick, keep with it, follow through. Hopefully it will work.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • NASCAR Brickyard 400 Auto Racing-3 [Duplicate] It's 'Jeff Gordon Day' at IMS for record 5th time INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With a fifth Brickyard 400 victory on the line Sunday, Jeff Gordon looked like the driver he was 20 years ago. Gordon nailed the final restart of the race — no given because restarts have been Gordon's Achilles heel — to pass Hen

    July 27, 2014 3 Photos

  • fishing clinic 02 (secondary pic) Kids fishing clinic is a blast for all The seasons come and go, but the excitement, challenge, allure and joy remain the same — off the chart. There are memorable moments, then there are occasions and special events that become tattoos for life.Still, joy is where you find it, and Saturda

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • SPL - KT072214 - B1 briefs - mug Sports briefs for Sunday, July 27 Brown takes 2 titles at junior nationalsHUMBLE, Texas — Kokomo middle schooler Tionna Brown won two championships Saturday at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic national meet. She won the 200 dash and the long jump.Brown avenged an earlier loss

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Colts lose Ballard to torn Achilles ANDERSON — Chuck Pagano delivered the news Saturday afternoon in a solemn tone, confirming running back Vick Ballard will miss the 2014 season.“It’s a part of the game. It’s an ugly part of the game,” the Indianapolis Colts head coach said shortly af

    July 27, 2014

  • SPL - KT072714 - John Martino column - column sig MARTINO: What's in a boat's name? I love marinas and the bigger the better. To me, they are one of the happiest places to be on earth. After all, who goes to a marina to have a bad time?

    July 27, 2014 4 Photos

  • SPL - KT072614 Colts notebook-pic Colts notebook: Ballard injured in Friday's practice ANDERSON — The first scary moment of Indianapolis Colts training camp came Friday afternoon courtesy of running back Vick Ballard.The former Mississippi State star went to the ground early in the public practice after catching an undefended pass in i

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sports briefs for Saturday, July 26 Miller goes 3-2 at freestyle nationalsFARGO, N.D. — Kokomo’s Fletcher Miller will wrestle for fifth place today in the final day of 220-pound action at the USA Wrestling Junior Freestyle Nationals. After scoring two wins on Thursday, Miller opened Fr

    July 26, 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
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
Parade
Magazine

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.