Kleiner sisters compete against each other for the first time

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Photo: Yanhua Huang/Iowa State Daily

Elizabeth Kleiner, sophomore in microbiology, practices the butterfly stroke in the Beyer Hall pool Tuesday, Oct. 9. The Cyclone women’s swimming and diving team practiced for the upcoming competition. 

Chris Wolff

Things were a little different last weekend for Elizabeth Kleiner at the dual meet against South Dakota. Her team set eight pool records en route to a 180-117 win, and yet, Elizabeth still felt a little conflicted.

That’s because the win came against Elizabeth Kleiner’s little sister, Erin.

Elizabeth, a junior at Iowa State and Erin, a freshman at South Dakota faced off as opponents for the first time ever, after spending 11 years as teammates.

“Since I was nine years old we have been on the same team, so it was pretty weird to be competing against each other,” Elizabeth said.

On top of the siblings’ teams facing off, the Kleiners also faced off in a number of different events.

Elizabeth Kleiner got the best of her little sister in the 400 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay where her team placed first and second, respectively. Erin placed sixth and fifth, respectively.

In the 200 butterfly, Erin again fell to her big sister, finishing fourth, while Elizabeth claimed another first-place finish.

Erin also felt a little strange after competing against her sister for the first time.

“I felt conflicted, because I wanted to see her succeed, but at the same time I want to see my team succeed, and when we were competing, I felt like those things could happen at the same time,” Erin said.

After the meet, however, there was no bad blood or trash talking. Instead of cashing in her recently-acquired bragging rights, Elizabeth used the moment to encourage her younger sister.

“I was trying to motivate her and I know that she was really happy for me and all of us, because we got the pool records and she was actually really proud of our team for doing that,” Elizabeth said.

While there is a playful rivalry, both sisters agree that it isn’t a serious one. In fact, Elizabeth is the reason Erin began swimming in the first place.

When the older sister began swimming competitively at age nine, the little sister, Erin, begged their parents to let her start swimming as well.

“I have looked up to her as a role model and mentor since the day I started swimming,” said Erin. “She has been there for me through all my success and hardships in the sport.”

After all those years of being teammates and cheering each other on, the sisters have been unable to change course and become really competitive with one another. More than anything, they support each other.

The two both had illustrious high school careers, with Elizabeth being a four-time all-state performer at Lakeville North High School in Minnesota and Erin being a two-time all-state performer at the same school.

The two were also club teammates, swimming for the South Metro Storm.

However, when it came time for a college decision, Elizabeth couldn’t persuade her sister to follow her to Iowa State.

Erin visited South Dakota’s campus and fell in love with the program. She also mentioned the school’s strong nursing program as a deciding factor.

While Erin is just starting out her freshman campaign at South Dakota, Elizabeth is already an established veteran at Iowa State.

After winning Iowa State’s newcomer of the year award her freshman season, Elizabeth is now in a crucial position for the Cyclones.

ISU coach Duane Sorenson noted the 100 and 200 butterfly as events in which Iowa State has struggled and will need to improve at going forward. Sorenson looks to Elizabeth to fill that void.

“We know she’s very capable 200 flyer, and she’s trying to work on her speed for the 100 fly,” Sorenson said.

Elizabeth looks to continue to be a valuable piece of the puzzle for the Cyclones this season, but she is still sure to check up on her little sister and watch her progress at South Dakota.

Elizabeth wants to see her sister do well, but as she put it, “Nobody wants to lose to their little sister.”