During last year's cross country season, Iowa running fans found themselves discussing two topics very frequently - the Hostetler sisters and the Johnston girls team. But what do the two have in common?
Anna and Marie Hostetler came into last year's season from 2A school Mid-Prairie and quickly drew fans by finishing 1st and 2nd in every single race they competed in together. It was clear to see that freshman Marie was following in her junior sister's steps, quite literally, finishing just seconds behind Anna at the State Championships and throughout the season.
In a similar fashion, the Johnston Dragons had an incredibly strong class of freshman, making up more than half of their top 7 at State. They managed to finish at State with one of the lowest team scores in Iowa history- just 26 points - despite their young team. The team was led by junior-freshman sisters Jessica and Brooklyn McKee, finishing 2nd and 3rd overall, respectively.
It is clear that the sister duos at both schools are ready for another exceptional year of competing, but how do they each stack up against each other?
According to their MileSplit athlete profiles, the younger sisters have clearly been positively impacted by the opportunity to follow in their sisters footsteps. Anna Hostetler came off of her freshman year with the following PR's - 800M 2:38; 1500M 4:56; 3000M 10:51, while Marie can boast PR's of 2:19; 4:36; and 9:52, only seconds behind Anna's current junior year PR's. Because the IGHSAU competed in 4K races during Anna's freshman year, she does not have a 5K time to compare with.
In comparison, Jessica McKee held a freshman 5K PR in cross country of 18:29, while Brooke can claim an impressive 17:54. Jessica's track PR's from her freshman are as follows: 2:25, 5:01, and 10:37; while Brooke's are 2:24, 4:50, and 10:23, despite her season being cut short from a stress fracture.
So why is it that the younger sisters have started at a higher caliber? Is it that they were born with more natural talent? Or is it the pressure of meeting expectations? The truth is that it's probably much deeper than anything we mere fans can see from the outside. While the younger sisters got to watch their older sisters compete and succeed for two years, they were driven to start training earlier, harder, and more effectively. The younger sisters have the ability to train with their older sisters and try to keep up, whereas the older sisters came in as freshmen to new teams, starting at ground zero. For the Hostetler sisters, their dad has been able to train them together and will have the opportunity to continue doing so as their coach at Mid-Prairie. Brooke McKee also had the benefit of 3 other extremely capable freshmen to train with every day, along with her sister and the rest of the strong Johnston team.
But the benefit goes both ways. As sophomores, Anna and Jessica held 5K XC PR's of 19:44 and 18:07. Each of them made great improvements this year with the aid of their new training partners, breaking the 18:00 barrier that put them among some of the most elite female runners of their age in the US. Anna's PR of 17:42 puts her at 38th among all juniors in the United States, while Jessica's 17:45 lands her at 42nd. Marie's 5K PR of 17:58 ranks her 29th among all freshman in the US, while Brooke's PR of 17:54 pegs her at 22nd. So while the younger sisters got a jump-start on training earlier, all four athletes have positively benefitted from the presence of their siblings and should continue to for their final high school year as teammates. It should be exciting to see how they have progressed this summer and what they can each accomplish this upcoming season.