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Fort Smith
Sunday, April 14, 2024

Lady Tiger Twins Born On Different Days


Pictured: Twin sisters Faith and Hope Rainwater

The first of fraternal twin sisters arrived with little complication at 11:36 PM. The second inadvertently flipped in the wrong direction making it much more difficult to meet the world. Anxious moments persisted before the younger sibling would join her big sister. By stopwatch, the two births were 1 hour and 39 minutes apart. By calendar, it was the next day. The official birth time of baby number two was 1:15 AM.

Sixteen years have passed since that frightening yet wonderful two days in late June brought Mansfield Lady Tiger cross country runners Faith and Hope Rainwater into the world. Faith, the oldest, accepts the mantle of big sister with pride. Hope, technically the youngest by a day, settles into her role quite nicely as well. Together the two fit perfectly into the plans of Mansfield long-distance runners.

“I remember when they came into junior high a few years ago,” Mansfield cross country coach John Mackey explained. “I was checking birthdays for AAA eligibility and thought there was a clerical mistake. They said they were twins but their birth dates were different.” As it turned out, Mackey was not the first to assume the two Lady Tigers were born on the same day. A common misperception, given that twins are most commonly born within the same 24 hour period.

“When you think about it, it’s pretty cool,” the coach insisted. “It’s a fascinating story about two terrific talents.” When asked if Faith plays the part of the big sister well, Hope responded with an unexpected comparison. “She more or less mothers me,” Hope admitted with a sheepish grin. “She wakes me up, fixes my food, and does my hair. Pretty much anything a mother would do, she does it.”

Mackey admits he sees the motherly instinct in the older of the two siblings. Not just in regard to the relationship between sisters but with the team as well. “Faith is a natural-born leader,” the coach expressed. “She doesn’t mind being in charge. I put a lot on her shoulders as far as team responsibilities. I guess she got that motherly instinct on day one.”

Hope did say the two share a common trait experienced by many multiple birth babies. The two routinely can finish each other’s sentences and often say the same thing at the exact moment. “It happens all the time,” Hope confessed when asked about the phenomenon. “Although I’m nocturnal and Faith is a morning person, we think and do a lot of things the same.”

“It takes the whole world to get her up in the morning,” Faith declared when speaking about her younger sister by one calendar day. “It’s a love-hate relationship. We do share a lot of the same thoughts, but I do most of the prodding.” As far as the Lady Tiger long distance team, the two sisters have found summer practice sessions another commonality. Working out with teammates on a regular basis since the start of preseason training in early July, the junior classified athletes have made real progress.

“I feel like I’m getting a lot accomplished,” Faith divulged after one particularly hard practice last week at Mansfield City Lake Park. “I’ve been more motivated this year because both of my seasons got cut short last year.” Faith experienced plantar fasciitis along the sole of her foot during her sophomore cross country season. That injury took her away from the sport for several weeks before a modest return to the state finals closed the 2019 season. Not quite the outcome the former All-State athlete expected after a highly successful freshman season.

Another bitter pill saw the Covid-19 crisis cancel both Rainwaters’ track seasons. Like other athletes around the nation, the pair were unexpectedly sent home unable to complete their spring sport. “I think this year we are gonna have a killer cross country team,” the older sibling announced. “Both the senior and junior high teams are going to be good.”

“Personally, I’d like to run 22 minutes for the 3 miles,” the collegiate hopeful continued. “I’d like to get first place overall sometime this season as well.” Hope, who favors track season’s 4x800m relay over the long-distance racing of cross country, had a more immediate goal for the upcoming season. “My goal is to not get hurt,” the younger and equally talented runner exclaimed with a slight giggle. “Seriously, I want to just help out and share the load.”

Hope took an innocent looking tumble last season just days before the first cross country meet. The result was an unfortunate head injury that took her away from running competition for nearly all of the fall season. Although her injury was on the opposite end of the body from her sister’s, Hope’s dreams elevated by last fall’s rigorous conditioning routine were dashed. The derailment was an eerily, twin-like fate similar to Faith’s.

Along with the twins, Mansfield’s senior girls return last year’s Player of the Year, McKenzie Griffin. They also have River Valley All-Stars Darby Jones, Katlynn Moore, and Jadelynn Wood in the fold. Cassidy Carlton, Lita Hecox, and Alyssa James, a trio of sophomores Mackey says are reaching their best conditioning, complete the high school roster.

The junior girls are headlined by All-Region and All-District eighth-grader Trinity Triska and All-Region eighth-grader Laney Wood. They are supported by rising talents Addison Bowman, Aidan Fildes, Azlynn Stover, and Summer Frazier. Adding the marks produced by Tiger men John Branche, Ashton Hinkle, and Jonah Martin, the Mansfield cross country teams collectively ran 283.7 miles last week. “Faith says we are going to be good,” Mackey summarized the message expressed by the motherly twin and team leader. “Baby sister and the rest of the team usually take her lead. Right now they are doing the things it takes to accomplish our goals.”

Mansfield eighth graders Addison Bowman, Azlynn Stover, and Aidan Fildes pose a cross country run
Alyssa James, Ashton Hinkle, and John Branche practice social distancing as part of their MHS cross country pre-season workouts
Mansfield cross country runners work on their abs before practice
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