Sports

April 26, 2014

Sectionals for sisters

Fraternal twins looking for a return to state meet

TUNNEL HILL — When you consider all of the hours of practice, all of the years of gymnastics training and the physical demands of being a cheerleader, the last word you would expect to hear an athlete use to describe herself is “lazy.”

But that is the word that Northwest Whitfield High School junior Analeigh Hopkins used to describe herself earlier this week as she prepares to compete at the Class 4A “A” Sectional at Carrollton High School today. Maybe that is because Hopkins is qualified in just one event — the pole vault. Her fraternal twin sister McKinley will be competing in three events.

“I did track in middle school, but my freshman year, I just didn’t want to when we got to high school because I am lazy,” Analeigh Hopkins said.

Analeigh won the Region 7-4A title with a vault of 8 feet, 6 inches for her new personal best. McKinley was the region champion in the 100-meter hurdles and finished second in the 300 hurdles and the triple jump. The top four finishers in each event from region advance to the state sectionals. At today’s sectional event, the top eight finishers in field events will advance to state. In running events, there will be two heats with the top finishers in each heat and the top four fastest times (for a total of six) advancing to state.

The Hopkins sisters both advanced to state last year, and are hoping to duplicate that performance this year.

McKinley has been actively involved with hurdles and the triple jump since she began running track in sixth grade at Westside Middle School. Analeigh has been competing in pole vault for a little over a year. In fact, her first competition came at last year’s Region 7-4A meet.

“(Former Northwest coach Chad) Brewer convinced me to come out and do pole vault last year,” Analeigh said. “Region was my first meet last year, and I finished fourth and then made it out of sectionals and went to state. I am looking forward to placing at state this year.”

She has come a long way — or should it be said she has reached new heights — in a short time. She credits her cheerleading and gymnastics background with helping her take to the vault so quickly.

“It is a lot more of a mental thing than anything else,” she said. “You have to be able to run fast and be coordinated, but it is more of a mental challenge to have your hands in the right spot and do all of the little things that can help you go higher. They say that cheerleaders are good at it if they are good tumblers, and I have always tumbled. Most people, their problems come from being scared.”

McKinley, who is also an outside hitter for the Lady Bruins’ volleyball team, said the pair will be rooting for each other and for the other to earn a medal at state this year.

“A lot of people ask us if we are rivals, but it isn’t really like that since we are doing such different stuff,” said McKinley, who set the school record in the 100 and 300 hurdles last year. “We just try to lift each other up and help the other one do their best.”

The sisters were born on Nov. 20, 1996, with Analeigh beating her sister to the finish line by four minutes. Most people who meet the girls together don’t think they are sisters.

“We are totally different, our personalities are different, and she is a little smarter than me,” Analeigh said. “Our friends are exactly the same. Surprisingly, we have the exact same friends, and I guess we fit in with our friends because we are so different. People don’t believe us when we tell them that we are sisters. We don’t look anything alike — we are just both tall and have blond hair. But she is my best friend.”

And they will be cheering for each other the loudest.

“There really is no competition between us,” McKinley said. “We just tell each other good luck and know that the other one is rooting hard for the other to get a win.”

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