NCAA Division III champions Elizabeth and Kaylee Jones are extraordinary student-athletes. The twin sisters from Omaha, Nebraska compete for the Nebraska Wesleyan Track & Field team. Their unique relationship is inspiring to learn about and solidifies the value of a strong support system. In this interview, the twins open up about their special bond, how it impacts their athletic careers, and their future aspirations.
Elizabeth and Kaylee, thank you very much for joining us. To begin with, let me ask you something you likely answered numerous times before. Both of you major in Exercise Science, compete in the 400m track & field event, and share plenty of other similarities. Is it a conscious decision to do things the same way or are they "natural" decisions that just happen to be the same?
Honestly, they have all been natural decisions. We share such similar interests and take pleasure in alike activities. I believe that even if, for some reason, we had been split up at birth, we would have ended up right where we are, doing the same thing. It has always been incredibly important, to both of us, that we pursue what we are passionate about and not make choices based on what the other one was going to do.
Honestly, the decision to do everything together is a result of our natural desires. We both chose to pursue track and field in high school because of our passion to run and work hard. Now, how we ended up running the same event was a bit of a different story.
Elizabeth originally started off running short sprints (100m and 200m) while I was recruited right away for the 400m. Once I had a few 400m dashes under my belt, coach was curious how Elizabeth’s 400m would compare to mine. After running her first 400m, it was set in stone that she would be a 400m runner from that point on. While it may not have been Elizabeth’s first choice to run such a race her sophomore year of high school, we have individually developed such a love for the race and wouldn’t run anything else in its place. Same goes for the major.
Our passion for the field of exercise science is our own but the same… if that makes sense. We both are greatly intrigued by the human body, how it works, how to maximize the body’s efficiency, how to treat an injury, how to come back from an injury, and how to take the steps to become an even better athlete prior to an injury. When people ask us about the decision to pursue the same major, it is crazy how we both light up talking about our passion. I also believe that there are biological factors contributing to our shared passions since we are identical twins.
Despite having so much in common, you are still each responsible for your own journey. Which role does your twin sister play in your personal life? Do you find motivation in your relationship? Or can it be challenging to "compete" with someone from time to time?
Kaylee and I are very similar, but we also have our own particular strengths and weaknesses. We are able to reflect on these differences which allows us to help each other grow and build each other up. Both of us are extremely motivated individuals and an immense part of that comes from challenging one another and keeping each other accountable.
Our strong bond really allows us to give and receive such incredible support through any situation. We know that whether it's an assignment or test for a class or a race that we are focused on, we can look to each other for support and will be proud of the outcome as we give our best effort. The competitive nature that we both possess drives us to do the very best we can. At the end of the day, when the race is over or the exam is complete, the love and support will always be there.
Being a twin has a tremendous impact on my own life! I am always motivated to do my best as I have such a close relationship to someone that is really a profound example in my life. We are always supporting each other as well as finding ways to challenge each other which results in incredible leaps forward in our individual lives. It really is a spectacular thing to witness someone who is so driven in everything they do- you can’t help but be motivated to repeat what you see- and that’s what it is between us. We feed off of this energy, consistently raising the bar, and seeking to take steps into new “territory”.
And yes, you are right, Elizabeth and I are in constant “competition” when it comes to our workouts and races. We help each other exceed our physical and mental limits with our genuine feedback/encouragement to each other. This is HUGE! Being in a consistent healthy mental state is crucial for athletic as well as academic success. I cannot even count the times that we have influenced each other in this way.
You both clearly draw strengths from one another. Now, let me ask you this though. If you have to pinpoint the two best qualities about your twin sister, which ones do you admire the most? And why?
Her humility and compassion. Kaylee will be the first person to raise others up before herself. She is so humble with all of her accomplishments and always sends the glory up where it belongs. She has a huge heart and genuinely wants the very best for others. More importantly, she is loving to me even in the moments when I do not deserve it. She would take a bullet for me, radiates beauty from the inside out, and I couldn't ask for a more genuine, loving, and supportive twin sister.
To name a couple qualities about Elizabeth that I admire the most, I would start by expounding on her selfless nature. Elizabeth is always thinking about other people. Before she has a chance to care for herself, she makes sure that everyone else has been attended to and properly cared for. She is quick to provide support, brightens up any situation, and has the kindest heart.
Another quality that I admire is her tenacious personality. When Elizabeth puts her mind to something, you can bet that she will see it to the end. She has never been one to give up or quit when challenged. Trials are often seen as road blocks to many and yet she finds ways to use them in order to become a stronger and better person. With this wisdom, she helps others to “see” in this manner as well which is very influential.
Just hearing you talk about your special bond is quite refreshing. Thank you for that. But now, let's talk athletics. You both saw some exceptional success at Nebraska Wesleyan. Despite having another season with the Prairie Wolves, what has been your most memorable moment so far?
How to even pick one? Well, one that pertains to our track experience together, the moment when we had just finished the 4x400 meter relay at Wartburg on May 28th, 2016. Kaylee and I were freshman, and we had just finished the last race of the season. We watched as our anchor leg crossed the line first. It took us a little bit of time to fully understand that we had just become the national champions for the relay for our division. I remember frantically looking around for Kaylee in the chaos. The moment when the four of us came together, I instantly looked at Kaylee. We immediately shared a look that no one else would ever quite understand. The look signified an understanding between the two of us. That right then, in that moment, we were witnessing the result of the exhaustive practices together, the perseverance through tough days, the constant encouragement and "building up" of each other, and the impenetrable bond that we shared. The four of us immediately fell to our knees and gave praise and glory to God for the amazing opportunity. It was incredibly special to share that podium with those three girls, and I am grateful, beyond words, that I was able to share it with my twin sister.
Wow.. this is a tough one... I would say one of the most priceless memories was actually in college at our first outdoor National Track and Field Championships. We were at Wartburg College and it was the last day and last event of the three day event. I remember our team being ushered onto the track in the order that we would be running the 4x400 relay. As we received instructions about marks, cutting in and so on, Elizabeth and I made eye contact and we each nodded our heads at each other- a special gesture of encouragement that has remained with us to this day. We both had been extremely nervous the entire length of the championship but after our little gesture described above, we both seemed to be overcome by a confidence and awareness that we, along with the other two ladies on our 4x400 relay, were about to give absolutely ALL we had for this race!
We each ran our own leg of the race with all of our hearts and once the finish line was crossed, we were amazed at the outcome. It was one of the most extraordinary feelings! After we stepped off the track, I remember embracing each member of the team and particularly Elizabeth as I thought about the unique opportunity we had just been given to participate in such an event and be surrounded by people we loved. The four of us huddled together at the end of the race and with tears in our eyes, we gave all honor, glory, and praise to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the gift of running and the opportunity to bring Him glory through it.
Cherishing such special moments with not only your sister but also your teammates will be memories for a lifetime, I'm sure. To conclude, tell us a little bit about your future plans. Both academically and athletically.
With the time that I have left, I intend to give absolutely everything. That goes for my academics as well as athletics! God willing, I would love to have my very best season (on and off the track) yet. Every season I strive to be better than the season before. I am looking forward to the immense work of practices and classes, laughing with my teammates and classmates, connecting with coaches, and just having a blast with my final season.
My plans after graduation include taking a year to work and gain experience in the field of physical therapy, then attend physical therapy school with the hopes of becoming a physical therapist. My desire is to combine my passion for helping others as well as my tremendous interest in the complexities of the human body and rehabbing injury to help people who are in need. I am very excited to apply all that I have learned, on and off the track, from my experiences at Nebraska Wesleyan University. I am beyond grateful to this university for the incredible education that I have and will continue to receive, for the profound relationships I have built, and much more.
I have many goals for my remaining time as a student athlete. For one, I desire to keep making gains in my academics by giving my best in the classroom as well as seeking opportunities outside the classroom as well. One of the reasons that I committed to Nebraska Wesleyan University was because of their core belief that we are student-athletes. And as it is ordered, student is first for a reason. Academics come before athletics. My goal is that I leave NWU campus with the most knowledge I can gain. While academics do come first, athletics are still important and a vital part (in my eyes) to becoming a successful graduate. The number of life lessons I have learned through the sport of track and field is remarkable. I have goals to keep learning these life lessons as well as gain skills/ nourish existing skills with my remaining time at Nebraska Wesleyan.
As always, I have goals to better myself and reach for new heights this last season of track and field as well. I am excited to see what the season brings, enjoy the sport and people I am surrounded by, work harder than ever, and finish strong. I have plans to apply to physical therapy school and pursue my desire to become a physical therapist after I graduate Nebraska Wesleyan University.