Paige (left), Claire (middle) and Luke (right) have found a balance between swimming and family.

While not uncommon for relatives to play on the same team in sports, having three siblings compete on the same team at the same time certainly is.

IUP has posted its own version of a “big three” in the form of the Mikesell family.

Claire (redshirt senior, kinesiology), Paige (junior, kinesiology) and Luke (freshman, criminology) grew up in the same household and now play for the same team.

The closest situation that comes to mind would be the Watt brothers on the Pittsburgh Steelers, but only two out of the three Watt brothers play for the Steelers.

For the first time, we were able to see all three Mikesells competing at the same time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Claire redshirted and sat out with no idea what next season would bring.

After all the time off, it is safe to say that the Mikesells were ready to get back into the water.

“After being out of competition for almost two years now, I was very eager to get back into the pool,” Claire said. “Redshirting last year, and then the pandemic happening and not even knowing if we were going to be able to have a season this year was definitely a lot to process.”

“It is so exciting to be back into competition,” Paige said. “Competing this season is truly a blessing, and we are so fortunate that we are able to compete. Competing brings a little normalcy to the pandemic.

“Although nothing is close to normal, being able to compete allows us to feel more like a team and allows us to do something that brings us happiness during this hard time.”

The time off from competition did not take away any of the Mikesells’ competitive fire. In the two meetings they have had since coming back, Paige already reached a NCAA Division II B standard time in the 100-meter butterfly with a time of 55.50. The B standard time was Paige’s second in as many weeks, posting a mark of 1:52.72 in the 200-meter freestyle last week at Clarion.

Claire won the 100-meter breast (1:05.07) in the first meeting at Clarion. Luke took a victory in the 500-meter freestyle during the same meet.

It is amazing to have three different siblings that all have the gift of being able to swim and compete at a high level. This all had to come from somewhere. Perhaps the trio’s success can be attributed to their parents.

“Our mom swam in high school, which was where part of our swimming ‘heritage’ came from and kind of how we got started,” Claire said. “Our dad was athletic as a kid as well but didn’t compete in any teams. I would say that most of our family played sports and were active, and we just chose to make swimming our family’s tradition.

“Our tradition carried on to both side of our family and we have cousins who swam [or] are still swimming on both sides.”

Perhaps their success comes from something more. Perhaps it comes from something inside.

“Hard work and determination,” Claire said. “Swimming is a sport where you have to put a lot of work in to get a little bit out. Everything matters. We work all year long just to be able to get to the best time in our event that might only be a total of two minutes (depending on the event).

“It takes a lot of determination and drive to get through every practice and to make sure that you are actually getting something out of it and not just going through the motions.”

Perhaps their success comes from a bigger force.

“My faith,” Paige said. “I know that God has a plan for my life, so I constantly put my trust in him. God has provided me with the ability to compete at this level.

“Every day I wake up and have the opportunity to swim is truly a blessing.”

One thing is for sure, this is a family that has a special bond, one that has been years in the making.

“We have always been a close family, even when we weren’t all on the same team,” Paige said. “My parents instilled in us just how important family is, and I think that no matter what, we would remain close.

“However, I would say that since all of us are on the same team, we are able to see each other and be around each other a lot more than we would if we were all on different college teams.”

This is one experience that the Mikesells will not soon forget. Being able to go into the heat of competition with your family there to cheer your one and compete with you.

The Crimson Hawks are off to a 2–0 start to their meets since having all three Mikesells competing this season. This team and the Mikesells will look to continue their run of success this weekend.

They will host their third meet of this season against PSAC rival Gannon on Feb. 13. The Hawks have had a solid start to what has been a different season for everyone involved.

In a year full of uncertainty, one thing is for sure: IUP’s big three is a big threat.

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