Fascione-ably fast

Elizabeth Nickol

Running twins excel on and off the track

Twin track and cross country runners Jennifer and Jeanna Fascione hold the distance medley relay record and helped the women’s team capture its first MAC title in school history.

Credit: Beth Rankin

After finishing second in an 800-meter race, Jeanna Fascione appears to fight back tears. Her twin sister Jennifer approaches to comfort her with a pat on the back.

Though they bear similar looks, the sisters are quite different. Jeanna often plays the part of the serious one while Jennifer is energetic and spontaneous. Despite their differences, the two have always been there for each other.

Running together

The two have been track teammates since eighth grade and started running cross country together in 10th grade. They are both seniors at Kent State, although Jeanna still has a year left of eligibility. Jennifer said she and Jeanna joined the cross country team for social reasons. When friends on the track team said, “Well, you should just join cross country,” they did.

“When I first started cross country, I wasn’t the biggest fan of it,” Jennifer said, adding, “Every year, I enjoy it more and more.”

Jeanna said for her, running “was always a fun thing, but I got more serious probably later in high school.”

The twins have become especially dedicated in college. In their most recent cross country season, they helped their team capture a Mid-American Conference Championship. This was the first time in school history the Kent State women have ever won the conference.

Although they knew they had a good team, the women were still surprised to win, Jennifer said.

Jeanna finished first for the team and 10th overall.

Through all of the meets and practices, the sisters support and motivate one another, and they have developed a friendly rivalry.

“We’re a little competitive with each other,” Jeanna said. “It’s not like an unhealthy competition. We pretty much leave it at practice. We don’t take it home and get all grouchy with each other.”

Friend and teammate Ofer Barniv, also a senior, said if Jeanna and Jennifer do get very upset with each other, they usually forgive each other a few minutes later.

The two rarely have a day off from a strict regimen of running, swimming and biking. Some days, they run twice. In an average week, they run close to 40 miles or more. That would be like running the 2,100 miles from Kent to Las Vegas during the course of a year.

Although Jennifer is not running during this outdoor season, she said she plans to continue practicing with the team and will run outdoor track her last semester at Kent State.

Running the classroom

The dedication involved in being a successful runner does not keep either woman from working hard in the classroom.

In the same season that they won a MAC championship, Jeanna and Jennifer were both named to the Cross Country Academic All-MAC team. Jeanna, who majors in exercise physiology, carried a grade-point average of 3.91. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school. Jennifer, who is studying middle school education in math and science, kept a 3.58 GPA.

“Academically, to me, they are the ideal student-athletes, as academics is certainly priority No. 1, and both do a fantastic job in the classroom, and both of them are fantastic athletes,” assistant coach Brad Hunt said.

Separate but equal

For a classmate or spectator attending a track meet, it could be difficult to tell one Fascione twin from the other. Although they have shared a bedroom since they were born, Jennifer and Jeanna are two distinctly different women.

Hunt said it is possible to tell the two apart from across the room based on mannerisms.

Jennifer tends to be more energetic and animated while Jeanna is more serious.

Teammates have found many ways to tell them apart, and subtle differences, such as the way each one does her hair, become quite obvious. However, the most consistent difference between the twins is personality.

Brittany Durkin and Erin Satzger, both freshmen, met the twins when they joined the cross country team for the Fall 2004 season. Satzger said it was difficult at first to tell the twins apart, but soon it became easy.

“Jeanna’s really sweet — she goes out of her way to be nice to everyone. Jenny’s hilarious … loud … spontaneous. I don’t even know how to describe it. She’s just awesome — you can’t really put your finger on it,” Satzger said.

Durkin has experienced Jeanna’s kindness especially.

“I’m injured, and she really goes out of her way to ask me how I’m doing,” she said. “She really pays attention to that, even though I’m not competing. She’s just nice to everyone.”

Barniv agrees.

“They are probably two of the most helpful people I know, always putting others before themselves,” he said.

In observing their interactions with one another, Hunt said he is amazed by how well Jeanna and Jennifer get along.

After spending their entire lives together, the twins are now starting to talk about what they are going to do when they “break up” when Jeanna goes to medical school in a few years.

“Since they share everything, they have to figure out how to split up the stuff as to who gets what,” Barniv said.

Though they each have one year left until graduation, Jeanna and Jennifer hope to continue to use their running talents many years down the road.

The two have made their mark in diverse ways as runners at Kent State. One proof of their athletic talent is the fact that the two are both members of the Kent State’s record-holding indoor distance medley relay team. The relay is broken into distances of 1,200, 400, 800 and 1,600 meters.

“They’re so versatile, so skilled,” Hunt said.

Jennifer used to be a hurdler and holds one of the school’s 10 fastest records in the 300-meter hurdles, but more recently has been improving in the 800 meters, and holds a Top 10 record for that race as well. On Feb. 19, she also set the school record for 1,000 meters.

Jeanna has led her team in cross country, which is a race of more than three miles, but also has been continually improving her times as Kent State’s second-fastest indoor miler of all time.

“Whatever you ask them to do, ‘you bet’ is the answer,” Hunt said.

Contact sports correspondent Elizabeth Nickol at [email protected].