Feb. 13, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

While Becky Alexander was searching for her perfect college, she had received a letter that was funny and engaging from a school in Minnesota.  Later, when she could not remember the name of the college, she referenced a guide book and looked up liberal arts schools in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  She found two, one of which was Carleton College.

Carleton College did not send the letter, but Becky did write her own letter to the swimming coach at the school located in Northfield, Minn. 

“We at Carleton were very lucky that Becky initiated the contact,” said 16-year head coach Andy Clark.  “I remember Becky’s introduction of herself as a student and as a person first and foremost, and she had a nice aside that she swam, too.  It was the best combination of everything academically and athletically, so we were very excited.”

Becky eventually applied to the school and visited the campus, and loved it despite the distance from where she grew up as the second of four sisters in Tigard, Ore.

Clark’s pleasant surprise ended up being three-fold as senior Becky’s two younger sisters – junior Kate and freshman Maggie -- have followed her to Carleton.  Both are also talented swimmers.

“It was fortuitous that all three ended up going to Carleton,” said Clark.  “We’ve had a lot of siblings attend Carleton.  What’s really great about it is that this is a place that supports and upholds the individualistic expression of everyone, and while there’s a great sense of community, there’s also a great sense of individual freedom.”

Each of the sisters not only brings a different personality to the Carleton team, but also excels in different events.  Becky, who is now a senior, is one of the team’s top freestylers, while Kate concentrates on breaststroke and individual medleys, and Maggie races backstroke.

In Carleton’s most recent meet against St. Olaf, each of the Alexander sisters took first place in at least one event, but did not even realize it.

“They are all extremely talented, but are the last people to talk about their own accolades,” said Clark.  “They are extremely humble and much more focused on the well-being of their friends and teammates than themselves.”

Clark also enjoys the sisters because of the sense of spontaneous fun they bring to the team, and says they are always entertaining to talk with.  But most of all, he is impressed by the fact they all share an insatiable work ethic.

“They are untiring and unrelenting, and thrive on hard work,” said Clark.  “They are the type of students any coach would dream of having on their team because they are the ones that will push through and really never complain.  I’ve never had heard any of them ever complain.”

Becky agrees with her coaches’ assessment about her sisters.

“As I get older, I’m really impressed by Kate and Maggie’s work ethic and how they keep pushing themselves,” Becky said.  “When they go into a race, I feel I know them well enough that even if they are behind a little bit, I just know they will pull through in the end.  I’m really proud of both of them, and I know they will be at their best any given day.”

Having family members close by is not the only benefit of the sisters all attending Carleton – they also have some extra resources for swimming advice.

“We’ll ask each other for advice a lot,” Kate said.  “Sometimes, I’ll have Becky or Maggie watch my starts or my turns.  Usually, it’s about little things that will make a difference down the road.” 

Each of them always makes sure they catch their sisters’ races, and although they have competed against one another in the past, they all agree it’s more fun to swim on the same team.

“What’s really nice is when we’re on the same relay team and we’re all silly before we go off,” said Kate.
Maggie, who is just getting her collegiate career started, is glad her sisters are such great role models to look to.
“They lead by example – they’re such great swimmers and great people -- that you look at them and think maybe that is something I should try or emulate,” said Maggie.

Entering the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Championships on Feb. 19-21, each of the Alexanders will have a chance to make big contributions to the team’s success.  Becky boasts the second-best time in the 100 freestyle in the MIAC, while Kate is the league’s top breaststroker and owns the top time in the 200 butterfly. In her first year, Maggie is also making a splash and has the best time in the 200 freestyle, and is one of the top backstrokers in the MIAC.