Princeton High School swim team head coach Greg Hand said he has seen several sets of twins or brothers and sisters who are a year apart pass through the school’s athletic system. He said it is rare, though, to coach siblings on the same varsity team who are three years apart. He has that in Serena and Madeleine Deardorff.
Serena, a senior, and Madeleine, a freshman, are both vital parts of this year’s girls’ 10-0 swim team.
“We’re very fortunate,” Hand said. “It’s just great to have more than one child from the same family on the team at the same time. They really add value to the team.”
Both of the girls started with the sport as children. Madeleine said she started swimming in meets for fun when she was three or four. Serena has served as a source of motivation since then.
“She had a really good influence on me,” Madeleine said. “I saw her as someone I looked up to a lot. She has really helped me throughout the years.”
Serena said she makes a conscious effort to be that person.
“It’s in the back of my mind that my sister is there watching me and that I have to be a figure for her to look up to,” she said. “It’s really exciting to have her by my side for my senior year. It’s motivating for me and exciting for her. Hopefully I’m a good role model.”
That carried over into the start of Madeleine’s high school career. There were naturally some nerves before she joined the team, but Serena was there to help calm them.
“She knew that I was a little nervous,” Madeleine said. She helped me realize that it was more important to focus on myself rather than my competitors. She helped me adjust to the team.”
That wasn’t difficult for Serena. Hand said the four-year veteran has always been an integral swimmer and overall teammate for the Little Tigers. Getting her sister acquainted with the squad came easy to her.
Once Madeleine warmed up to the team, Hand noticed that she and Serena shared certain traits.
“It’s fun to see the two of them interact,” he said. “They’re involved in the swimming. They’re always cheering for their teammates, cheering for each other, and spending time hanging out with each other and talking about their races. It’s great to see their family dimension and even that slight intergenerational dimension that they represent.”
While the girls have similar on-deck personalities, though, they are very different in the pool. Both swim butterfly, but for the most part, Madeleine specializes in endurance and distance races while Serena has developed into more of a sprinter.
As Serena prepares to wrap up her high school career and start fresh at Amherst College in the fall, it’s not hard to envision Madeleine filling her shoes in the future.
“Madeleine is going to be the same sort of person as Serena,” Hand said. “She’s very team-oriented. She’s friendly, supportive, talented, and committed to training.”
“I think she has an incredible amount of potential,” she said. “She has a love of the sport that’s evident. Her passion inspires me as a person, just to see how much she loves swimming. She’s always at practice. She doesn’t miss a day. That’s her priority, to be there and do her best each day.”
Madeleine said she owes it all to her sister.
“It’s really great having her around,” she said. “She really helps motivate me and everybody else. She gets everyone psyched up. She’s such a role model. It’s exciting for me just because I’ve seen her develop so much.”
Hand said that connection brings a dynamic to the team that others may not have.
“We’re lucky,” he said. “It brings an automatic warmth and a sense of closeness. They both have terrific character. They add tremendous value to the team.”