A family affair

BY KATRINA DO | MARCH 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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Before coming to Iowa, it was hard to spot freshman Tess Wilberding in a crowd without doing a double take—mostly because she was probably alongside two duplicates of herself. 

The Wilberding triplets—Aubrey, Mallory, and Tess—are Michigan’s first triplets to commit to three different Division One schools. Each attended Big Ten schools to run track and cross country, with Tess at Iowa, Aubrey at Michigan State, and Mallory at Ohio State.

The Big Ten has always been in their blood; all six Wilberding siblings attend Big Ten schools, but only the triplets went to college to run track.

While Tess wishes one of her sisters came to Iowa with her, the three never actually discussed following the same path. Aubrey and Mallory knew the decision to go separate ways would more valuable for them in the long run.  

“We went through high school doing everything together, involved in all the same school events, teams, and clubs together,” Mallory said. “This was a way for us to branch out.”

Each sister had her own reasons for committing to their schools. For Tess, Iowa just felt right.

“I loved the team and the coach—it kind of just happened,” Tess said. “Iowa felt more me than any of the other schools.”

For Aubrey and Mallory, it was about being just the right distance away from home, with both sold on their trips to Columbus and East Lancing respectively.

“I wish we went to the same college, but I appreciate them a lot more now that we don’t see each other,” Aubrey said.

The triplets have always been competitive with one another. The three began their athletic careers on the soccer field, but chose to pursue a future in track and field after meeting their school’s age requirement in the sixth grade.

“We always wanted to be the better of the three,” Aubrey said.

Aubrey and Tess, both distance runners, will likely be competing against one another this outdoor season, and the sibling rivalry may be rekindled.

“I’m excited to go up against Tess. I haven’t been able to race against her since high school,” said Aubrey.

The reunion on the track may ultimately depend on Tess’s health.

The freshman had a few unfortunate setbacks in the last indoor season due to an injury and some illness. Head coach Layne Anderson said her progress has been up and down, and every time she’d made significant progress it seemed like she would come down with a cold, or slip on the ice and bruise her knee.

Thankfully, with the outdoor season comes warm weather, which means better health and no dangerous ice—the upcoming season looks better for Tess already.

“She has some real talent, there’s some real ability there,” Anderson said. “It all starts with getting her back into training and keep her going to gain some momentum.”

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