Nationals trips twice as nice for Darton duo

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

ALBANY -- Darton College's Richard and Catherine Westerfield have a lot in common.

They are both on the school's Dean's List, both headed to national tournaments this month in their respective sports and both almost even didn't even end up in Albany.

Oh, and they're also fraternal twins.

That's right, the sophomore siblings, who both attended Harrison High School in Acworth -- an Atlanta suburb -- are splitting up (no pun intended) in the coming weeks.

Richard's men's soccer team is headed to Texas on Nov. 18 for the NJCAA national tournament, while Catherine's women's cross country squad is going to South Carolina on Saturday for theirs.

"It's really exciting. It's made my parents really proud, and they're really happy we came to Darton and we've accomplished so much in both of our sports," said Catherine, who finished third overall with a time of 20:42 in her team's region championship. "My brother barely started last year, or even got to play, and this year he's been starting and playing a lot. And also, this year, I've (gotten a) PR (personal record time in a race) finally for the first time since high school, so we've both, I think, improved a lot in our sports."

Richard agreed, saying it's just cool that both of them are accomplishing big things at the same time.

"It's pretty awesome," said Richard, a defender who is a big reason the men's soccer team has only given up one goal in four postseason games. "It's neat that we came to the same school and are playing sports and now that we're both going to two different national tournaments."

It's a feel-good story all around for the family -- but it almost didn't happen.

"It was kind of a fluke because we received a direct mail piece from Darton and I almost threw it in the garbage because it looked like it was from a private school," said Jaye Westerfield, their mother. "Then when I saw it was from Albany -- I have a friend there -- I kind of gave it to Catherine and she went online and they kind of recruited themselves there.

"So it ended up really well for them. They went down and visited and (Darton) happened to have soccer tryouts the next day, and Richard went down and tried out. Their motivation got them there and they've done well since they've been down there."

That they have.

Richard has a 3.9 GPA and tutored in the offseason, while Catherine also makes good grades and is a Resident Assistant in the school's dormitory.

"They've had such an awesome experience there. They couldn't be in a better place," Jaye Westerfield said. "Not only athletically, but academically, so I'm just really proud of how they've applied themselves."

Their coaches have noticed.

"It's gotta be such a good feeling that both have accomplished something in their lives that's special so early, because they're both sophomores," said head men's soccer coach Bart Sasnett. "(For example), we planned on (Richard) coming in (and contributing this year). We got him ready in the spring. He was starting early in the season, then he got injured, but he worked and worked and worked and got his spot back. He's been great, he's a big strong player in the backfield."

Richard started for the team early in the season, but after an injury, had to re-earn his spot.

"I guess as a mom, I think Richard is high-strung, so I encouraged him to enjoy his education, and any soccer he gets to play is icing on the cake," Jaye Westerfield said. "(But) Richard is so driven he never really needed any of us to tell him how to earn a spot or anything like that. He just always loved soccer and worked hard for that goal."

And Catherine's been no slouch either, as she finished 40th overall with a time of 20:48 in a race earlier this season in Spartanburg, S.C. -- the site of the national tournament -- against Division I and II schools.

"The course is really fast, and I PR'd before region there, so I'm hoping I can (do that) again (Saturday)," Catherine said. "I'm hoping and really think we can get a lot of girls in the low 20s and 21s, so hopefully we can reach our goal of getting 20th in the nationals and get rings."

Both Richard and Catherine said they owe a lot to their parents, who both support them and show up to nearly every event, despite being divorced.

"I know they were both excited because they both got to come to my region (meet) and my brother's game (Saturday against Spartanburg Methodist) and the week before (Oct. 31 against Middle Georgia)," Catherine said. "My mom couldn't say (how proud she was) enough, and my dad's just crazy about both of us playing sports. He checks the stats all the time."

Their dad, Rich Westerfield, is a busy man -- he's the vice president of sourcing and manufacturing at Yokogawa Corporation of America in Newnan -- but he tries to make every game he can.

He was in Tokyo this week on a business trip, but Jaye Westerfield said they both plan to attend Catherine's meet in South Carolina, and he plans to attend Richard's game in Texas as well.

"Both my parents and my grandparents (support us)," Richard said. "(And it's helped, because we're improved) a lot (from last year). Her time has gotten faster, I'm starting a lot more games this year."

They also support each other, as Richard goes to every one of Catherine's meets he can, while she goes to every one of his games.

But before jumping to conclusions, rest assured they don't get a taste in their mouth when the other one eats something, or finish each other's sentences or anything like that.

The most coincidental thing they do is say the same thing at the same time occasionally, according to Richard.

Well, that, and going to nationals.

"It's interesting because, being a guy and a girl, they don't have like "twin powers" or whatever you hear about. But they're really great friends and always look out for each other," Jaye Westerfield said. "A lot of times they have the same circle of friends, so it's been great as a parent, because she would bring in the girls and he would bring in the guys and they would have a good core group of friends, so it's been (really) good to witness that kind of closeness between them."

So what's next for the pair of prodigies?

The national tournament, of course.

Then other colleges, since it's their last year at Darton.

"(Our goals right now are) to do the best that we can," said Richard, who wants to keep playing soccer after his days as a Cavalier are done. "We need to give 110 percent (wherever) we go."

Catherine echoed that sentiment, saying she's focused on the task at hand, despite receiving scholarship offers from schools like Savannah College of Art and Design and Shorter College.

"We actually are the fastest girl's team that Darton has ever had, so we've already accomplished a lot, but we're hoping to improve even more by going to nationals," Catherine said. "Everyone is really ready ... so we should do fine."

However they do, they've at least made it this far, so it's time to enjoy the ride while it lasts.

"Those two, they have been solid all year," head cross country coach David Mann said. "They both make excellent grades, they're both good athletes. They were a nice (snag) for Darton."