With identical footsteps but different routes, brothers follow each other to Michigan

By Claire Kintner, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 23, 2014

For years, high-school cross-country and track standouts Ethan and Colin Martin have pushed each other to become the best distance runners in western Pennsylvania. For the identical twin brothers, Michigan’s newest cross-country and track commits, it has always been about fun competition.

Still, up until his senior year, Colin had never beaten Ethan in a race, but he was always within a few painful inches. Colin would place fifth, but Ethan would place second. Colin would clock a blazing fast two-mile, but Ethan would run two seconds faster. Last year, they tied.

“I wanted to catch Ethan on his best day so I could call it a true victory,” Colin said. “It’s always going to be a rivalry, but it’s friendly. There’s no bitterness. Still, I put a target on his back every single race.”

And this past fall, Colin defied the odds by beating out more than 200 runners in the Red, White & Blue Classic Invitational in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Oval, followed by Ethan in third. Now that the results can go either way, it will be interesting to see just how far the sibling rivalry will be able to go next fall. For now, though, both boys remain intent on continuing to improve and clock even better times over the next few months.

Though the idea of “brotherly love” begins to get a little heated at times, it seems that the bond Ethan and Colin share far outweighs the final outcome of any given competition. The twins have been lucky to have each other as training partners over the years, and because of the respectable coaching they’ve received, they will continue running toward excellence at the collegiate level next year. As a result, the two should be an up-and-coming force to watch on all circuits.

The duo began posting top finishes beginning with the 2012 Western Pennsylvania District 7 cross-country meet in the brothers’ junior year. Ethan and Colin led the pack of all marquee distance runners, winding up with second- and fifth-place finishes, respectively. Next up was the Class AAA state race in Hershey, Pa., in which Ethan took fifth and Colin 16th.

Once racing moved indoors for the winter, Ethan placed second and Colin took seventh in the 3,000-meter race at the Pennsylvania State Indoor Track & Field Championship before upping the training during the 2013 outdoor season. The boys ran a pair of 4:18 times in the mile, followed by a 9:17 and 9:19 in the two-mile at the Class AAA championship that were worth 1-2 and 1-3 finishes. Ethan went on to run a 9:10 to win the 3,200-meter race at the state meet, with Colin placing fourth at 9:16.

The Martins visited Ann Arbor last fall and were convinced it was a good fit both academically and athletically.

“We believe that Coach Gibby is one of the top coaches in the nation, and we’re looking forward to running together for four more years,” Ethan said.

Colin agreed.

“It would have been a weird feeling competing against each other with different jerseys,” he said. “A lot of our success is due to practicing together and helping each other reach our maximum potential on the track. It’s a good feeling knowing that we’ll still be doing it at Michigan.”