For coaches, athletes and fans alike, the sight of a pair of monozygotic, or identical, twins on a team in any sport can often cause both confusion and curiosity.
The Glen Burnie track team has the unique privilege, or wonder, depending on how you view it, of having not one or even two, but three sets of twins on the outdoor track team this year, something that made coach Ashley Kelso's first days on the job last year a bit more difficult.
"I had to get to know all of the kids at once last season because it was my first year," Kelso said. "So looking at 60 kids trying to know all their names and faces was a challenge, then I would start to get the names and then it would be one of the twins and I would get confused and not sure which twin it is. But in some ways it's easy because if I yell, 'go twin', I am covering at least 6 of the kids."
The sets of twins are juniors Alexus and Alysha Shaw, who run sprints and hurdles as well as relays; Ishmael and Ibrahim Shaheeddavis, seniors who run distance, and Aaron and Joshua Watson, seniors who specialize in the long and triple jumps but also run sprints. Despite being twins, each pair had a unique route to where they got to the point where they all became teammates.
The Watson brothers both played football for the Gophers in the fall, with Aaron playing running back and Joshua at wide receiver. Aaron started track as a sophomore and his success inspired Joshua to join as a junior.
"I wanted to do it my freshman year but I was lazy but because I like running and stuff, I was like, I might as well do this when I was a sophomore," Aaron Watson said. "Then I started really getting into running and stuff and it's been that way ever since."
Aaron finished second in the county at the long jump during indoor season while brother Joshua was third. The pair are off to an excellent start after Aaron took second and Joshua took fourth in the long jump at the outdoor season opening Seahawk Invitational.
Aaron was also busy off the track throughout his time at Glen Burnie, attending a business program at Morgan State and a game design program at George Mason in the summer, the latter inspiring him to attend Mason next fall with the goal of a double major in computer science and game design. Joshua plans to major in business either at York College or the University of Maryland Eastern Shore next fall.
For the Shaheeddavis brothers, particularly Ishamael, the motivation to be able to run the mile successfully after an army physical fitness test while they were at Meade High school served as the impetus to join track their junior years.
"I was in ROTC at Meade," Ishamel Shaheeddavis said. "I had to do 500 pushups and couldn't really run the mile so I just wanted to figure out how to run the mile and that's what got me into track."
Having never played a team sport before, the Shaheeddavis brothers mainly use track as tool for camradarie and staying in shape, spending more time in other organizations. Ibrahim is enrolled at the Center for Applied Technology North in the Precision Machine department while Ishamel helped produce the 2017 senior class videos and is also a part of the Robotics club and the tech group.
While Aaron Watson is more outgoing than brother Joshua and Ishmael and Ibrahim Shaheeddavis are relatively indifferent to being a twin, Alexus and Alysha Shaw are the epitome of what a non-twin would probably expect from identical twins, including their love for running which developed in the 6th grade in Virginia.
"We are alike in a lot of different ways," Alexus Shaw said. "We like the same foods, we like the same activities, so it wasn't really a suprise that we both liked the same running events because we are basically like the same people in two different bodies."
In addition to sharing a mutual love of macaroni and cheese, pizza and pasta (the Olive Garden is both of their favorite restaurants), they share a dominance academically as Alysha is first in her class in the race to be valedictorian with Alexus just 0.05 GPA points behind her in third place.
Alexus qualified for states last year in the 100 meter hurdles in outdoor and the 55 meter hurdles indoors and looks to replicate that outside and possibly in the relays, while Alysha hopes to be a part of a state qualifying relay team.
No matter how it turns out, Kelso has been excited by such a rare occurrence and has embraced the challenge fully to accentuate the strengths of having three sets of twins across the scope of track in the best way possible.
"It's been pretty exciting," Kelso said. "Some of the twins like to work together, some of the twins don't like to work together, so the twins that like to work together it's a no-brainer to put them in the same relays because they can communicate without talking.
"I'm not worried about them dropping a baton,'' Kelso added. "Sometimes there is sibling rivarly. Aaron and Josh are our only triple jumpers and that's such a unique set of skills that most of the time if I get them in an event we can get points and that's pretty awesome. They are really all pretty great kids."