By JOSH SIGLER
Bethany and Brittany Neeley both admit that, if not for their running careers, they probably wouldn’t have as many friends.
Even more so than the titles and school records they’ve racked up during their athletic careers at Eastern, the twin sisters value the feeling of being part of a family atmosphere in every facet of life.
They enjoyed that luxury as members of the Comets’ cross country, basketball and track and field careers over the last four years. They found a similar setting in Bloomington on their official visit to Indiana University, and the rest is history.
The coveted runners have announced they will continue their cross country and track and field careers with the Hoosiers, ending what was an exhaustive search that including trips down countless miles of highways.
“The most influential people in our lives over the past four years of high school have been [through sports],” Brittany Neeley said. “Indiana definitely has that ‘home’ feeling that no other college had. It really has a supportive atmosphere down there, especially since all the sports are nationally ranked. Everyone is pretty successful down there, and there’s a great Christian atmosphere down there that Bethany and I were both looking for. The Christian values stood out there more than any other school that we visited.”
The decision on where they two would go to college was going to, first and foremost, boil down to which school would take both of the sisters. Splitting up for college was never a serious option for the close-knit pair.
“I feel comfortable with where we’re going, and the teammates we’re coming in with,” Bethany said. IU’s recruiting class also includes Chanli Mundy from Terre Haute North and Corinne Comminator from Northridge, athletes the sisters have developed friendships with on the running circuit over the years.
“It’s a good feeling to know I’ll have my sister and friends around. [Brittany and I] had said during our junior year that if we went to different schools it wouldn’t really be a big deal. But, really, that was never an option. We have the same opinions on a lot of things, especially what we wanted and were looking for in a college.”
The duo will finish their prep careers as two of the most decorated athletes in Eastern history, having a hand in nine school records in cross country and track. But to cross country coach Brandon Mink, it’s what the sisters do off the track and course that will leave the most lasting impressions on the school and its athletes.
“They’ve just been incredible for Eastern,” Mink said. “They’ve lifted not only the cross country, track and field and basketball programs, but just sports in general in Greentown. They’ve been leaders throughout their careers, and have brought up some of the younger athletes who are just starting to enter high school. Those kids look up and see what [the Neeleys] have done and look up to them. They are a great example for others who are following behind them. They’ve given younger kids great role models that they can emulate.”
Together, the sisters have had a hand in four Mid-Indiana Conference, four sectional and two regional titles in cross country before placing seventh as a team in the IHSAA state finals this fall.
In track and field, the Comets have captured two MIC titles in the Neeleys’ tenure. The program captured its first sectional championship in the spring with the sisters at the forefront.
Individually, few have been better. Bethany won state in the 1,600-meter run as a junior after placing second in the 800 as a sophomore and third in the 800 as a freshman. She finished fifth overall in the cross country state finals in October, and followed that up by being named the Class 1A-2A runner of the year by the Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country coaches. With her senior track season still to go, Bethany holds the school records in cross country (five-kilometer), the 800, 1,600 and 300 hurdles. She, with her sister, was also part of 1,600- and 3,200-meter relay teams that set school records. The 1,600 team of Bethany, Brittany, Emily Wilcox and Zoe Wolfe placed eighth as a team in the 2011 state finals.
Brittany finished third in the 800 as a junior after placing fifth in the 400 as a sophomore and eighth in the same event as a freshman. She holds school records in the 200 and 400, and is the most recent Eastern girls basketball player to surpass the 1,000-point mark for her career.
The sisters are vital to a Comets basketball program that has started the season 9-1 and currently holds the No. 7 ranking in Class 2A.
“They’ve lifted the entire athletic program at Eastern in general,” Mink said. “We’re really excited for them. They’ve done their homework, and [Indiana] looks like a good fit for them. It’s great that they are staying close to home because their coaches, friends and family will all have a better opportunity to continue to watch them compete.”