Like the Williams sisters or the Manning brothers, Joey Kelly knows what it’s like to compete against a sibling.
Joey, a junior pole vaulter for the Lehigh men’s track and field team, and his twin brother David Kelly, both compete in the Patriot League. However, one competes for the Mountain Hawks while the other for the Bucknell Bison.
Though Joey and David have settled in to pole vaulting for their Pennsylvania schools, the two have been athletic counterparts for their whole lives, beginning in Pittsburgh.
From basketball to soccer to baseball, Joey said his and David’s history in athletics fostered a fierce competition between the two of them at a young age.
“When you’re a twin, you get compared in everything,” Joey said. “It’s a good bit of pressure. That pressure drives you to stand out a little bit among the both of you.”
When the twins began their track careers for their middle school team, they had opportunities to compete directly against each other.
Yet, the two brothers’ athletic rivalry did not break their bond.
Rather, their high school career helped them frame a mutual support for each other. Joey said he and David pushed each other to succeed, leapfrogging each other’s successes as the years progressed.
After David made the Pennsylvania state track and field competition in the twins’ sophomore year of high school, Joey followed with an appearance the next year. In their senior years, the twins both reached the state competition for their first time.
Joey said their past performances leading up to states keyed the intensity of their training routines in their senior year of competition.
In their respective recruiting processes, the two athletes pursued not only different schools, but also different sports. When their freshman years started, Joey had joined Lehigh’s men’s track and field team and David joined the Bucknell wrestling team.
Additionally, Joey said that the two brothers’ communication — previously routine — lacked in their first year away from home. However, after David’s first year wrestling, he decided to join the men’s track and field team, a decision that surprised Joey and spurred greater communication down the road.
“The move was stressful, but I looked forward to competing with him again,” David said. “It’s similar to high school in a way.”
At the season’s start, David set a new personal record right out of the gate — a milestone that Joey said served as motivation to work harder.
“David’s gone for a semester and now he’s coming back and jumping an inch higher than me,” Joey said. “It gave me an extra push to keep improving.”
Joey said while his confidence in facing his brother was initially shaking, it is now fully present. With four head-to-head competitions under their belts, Joey has the edge. Joey beat David three times and tied him once.
Senior Max Jordan, a pole vaulter for Lehigh, said he loves seeing the twin brothers interact in their head-to-head matchups.
“They’re really similar in a lot of ways,” Jordan said. “I remember one year, someone gave David a bunch of Lehigh gear and he came out dressed in that.”
Men’s track and field coach Matt Utesch said he appreciates the spirit of the twin’s rivalry, as it pushes Joey to perform.
As the outdoor track and field season begins, the Kelly twins will look to not only set personal records, but also to perform the best they can against one another.