GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The second that Danielle Siverling stepped foot on the campus of North Carolina, she was hooked.
Danielle was going to be a Tar Heel and her twin sister, Megan, knew it. Megan was headed to Penn State -- their uncle, Brian, won an NCAA Division I football national championship with the Nittany Lions in 1986. Two schools, several hundred miles apart.
Growing up, many would simply refer to the two of them collectively as either the twins or the Siverlings. Both of them were almost always mentioned in the same breath as the other, Danielle and Megan or Megan and Danielle.
Never just Danielle.
Never just Megan.
Nearly 400 miles separate their hometown of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Danielle considered Penn State as well as several other schools, but now that she’s a senior, she can’t imagine herself as having gone anywhere else.
They’re each other’s biggest fans, but there’s a comfort zone in place now. They’re Megan Siverling of Penn State and Danielle Siverling of North Carolina, separate people with the same family.
“Just based on our interests and personalities, we tended to choose a lot of the same activities and a lot of the same friends,” says Danielle, an eleventh-place finisher in Thursday’s 500 freestyle, good enough to grab All-American honors. “But we were never really dependent on each other.
“Even though we had a lot of similarities and we were very close, we were very much two different individuals. We knew before we even started looking at colleges -- we’d talked about it when we were younger -- that we wanted to go to separate colleges. We wanted to branch out and have our own lives and our own friend groups.”
There was at times teenaged drama in the Siverling household, and according to Megan, it peaked somewhere around their seventh- and eighth-grade years. Parents Curt and Mary Beth would send them to their own corners to cool off and to give them some space.
It was normal stuff, the stuff every family faces on a daily basis. What doesn’t happen every day is that both daughters developed into NCAA Division I-caliber swimmers.
“We’ve always been really close,” begins Megan, who finished forty-fourth overall in the 500 freestyle Thursday. “We have a lot of the same interests. We do have similar personalities and because of that closeness and because we shared a lot of friends and participated in a lot of the same activities, we butted heads a lot.
“From middle school on, we knew we wanted to do something different in college. As big as a college can be, we both knew we wanted to swim and we both knew we’d be in the same environment every day. We didn’t want to just be the Siverlings for the rest of our lives. We wanted to each kind of form our own identity.”
Imagine Curt and Mary Beth here this week. What must it be like for them to see their children competing at this level?
“They love this,” says Danielle, also slated compete in the 200 freestyle Friday. “They have like lived for this the past four years. Every weekend, they’re either at Penn State or UNC, it seems like.
Once upon a time years ago, Brian Siverling made his junior-high school basketball team as a seventh grader. Eleven months older and in the eighth grade, Curt Siverling was cut.
Still, Curt went to every game to support his kid brother. It was hard, sure, but Brian was still family. It continued in college, when Curt made as many Penn State games as he could despite being busy with his studies.
Fast forward three decades or so. Danielle wound up Thursday as an All-American, while Megan did not.
“Around maybe ninth grade or so, Danielle started to really, really take off,” remembers Megan, scheduled for the 1650 freestyle event on Saturday. “I was improving in swimming, but not at the same level she was. She was turning some heads. We were swimming in the same events and it became pretty obvious that she was getting significantly faster than me.”
That’s when Curt sat Megan down and told her about the long-ago junior-high basketball team. Athletics are fine, but family is family.
“We’ve been raised to know that family comes above anything else,” Megan continues. “That’s always been our priority. For me, it was a learning process, definitely, a maturing process. We celebrate each other’s successes so much, no matter if we finish ahead of the other one in the pool or whoever got higher SAT scores. That was really awesome, because then you have two things to celebrate -- your own success and your twin sister’s.”