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García-Palencia twins provide double impact for EKU track and field program as freshmen

Two of the most impressive Eastern Kentucky University competitors at the 2020 Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships were freshmen from Spain.

They share a last name. And were born two minutes apart.

Emma and Pedro García-Palencia are fraternal twins – mellizos, in Spain. They were born prematurely, at seven months. Pedro had an issue with the umbilical cord, so a Cesarean delivery was performed to remove him urgently. Two minutes later, Emma arrived.

Emma and Pedro García-Palencia are fraternal twins.

The twins grew up in Castellón, a province in eastern Spain that hugs the Mediterranean Sea.

Like most twins, they were very close.

“We have always done almost everything together,” Emma said.

And very similar.

“Many people tell us that we are alike in the way we speak and in the gestures that we make,” Pedro said.

Emma and Pedro were active kids. They started with swimming and skating. Pedro got into judo, and then soccer. Emma tried her hand at tennis and ballet.

But they finally settled, together, on track and field.

Interestingly, it was on the track where the García-Palencia twins diverged. Pedro fell in love with distance running. Emma fell in love with just about everything else. The younger (by 120 seconds) twin became a multi-event athlete. Her training consisted of running, jumping, hurdling and throwing.

“I don’t think I would be able to focus on just one event and practice it every day,” Emma said. “I like to do different things so I don’t get bored.”

Both siblings excelled at their respective specialties. They competed for the local club team, Playas de Castellón, and then enrolled at Peñeta Roja, a high school that combines academics with track and field.

“In America, it seems common (combining sports with school), but Peñeta Roja was the only school in Spain to do so,” Emma noted.

The twins’ performances continued to improve. They both earned spots on Spain’s U-20 National Team. Universities in American began to take notice. One such university was EKU.

Some of EKU’s best runners from the past half-decade have hailed from the Iberian Peninsula.

•Jaime Escriche — cross country All-American.
•Jaime Romo — two-time OVC track champion.
•Samuel Abascal — OVC Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year.

The García-Palencia twins grew up in Castellón, a province in eastern Spain that hugs the Mediterranean Sea.

EKU is also one of the elite steeplechase schools in the country. The Colonels have had a steeplechase All-American at six of the last seven NCAA Outdoor Championships.

So, Pedro – a Spanish steeplechase specialist – was a natural fit. “I did not hesitate,” he said of his decision to become a Colonel.

But EKU was also interested in Emma.

Yoshua Reed had just concluded his reign of terror on the OVC men’s multis scene. He graduated with three decathlon gold medals, two heptathlon gold medals and three team titles.

Could Emma do the same on the women’s multis scene?

“Then the coaches saw my sister’s marks and, fortunately, they gave us both a scholarship,” Pedro said. “Our parents were glad we could go to the same university together.”

“The opportunities for an athlete to continue academically in the United States are incredible,” Emma added. “Pedro and I love to travel and learn other cultures. We decided EKU because several Spaniards had spoken very well of it, but also because it gave us the opportunity to enjoy this experience together.”

The twins’ first year in America ended on a high note. At the 2020 OVC Indoor Championships in late February, Pedro and Emma opened some eyes.

Pedro ran an impressive anchor leg in the distance medley relay, helping the EKU men to a silver medal on the first night of action. The following day, he scored more points with a fourth-place finish in the 3,000 meters. He ran a personal-best time of 8:20.06 in the race.

Emma was 13 points away from becoming the first EKU woman ever to win an OVC pentathlon title. She earned silver in the event with a personal-best 3,520 points. She also scored points with a sixth-place finish in the high jump (5’5.25″).

“It was amazing,” Emma said of her first OVC Championships experience. “I was honestly scared by the competition, but I tried to do my best for the team.”

The García-Palencia twins earned silver medals at the 2020 OVC Indoor Championships.

Unfortunately, the twins were not able to carry that momentum into outdoor season. Three weeks after the OVC Indoor Championships, the COVID-19 pandemic ended their freshman season abruptly.

“It was a great year,” Pedro said. “I learned a lot about what athletics and the culture is like here.”

“The coaches and teachers are very supportive at EKU and I am very grateful,” Emma added. “I’m excited to see what’s coming for next season.”

Pedro and Emma are different types of track athletes. Their interests don’t always match up. “He loves to play Fortnite, and I hate it,” Emma said. But, in the big picture, their goals remain twinned.

“When we want something we go for it, and that is what characterizes us the most,” Emma said. “We would like to go as far as possible. Reaching the Olympics is a dream. You have to work hard to achieve it, but we will try to do our best to get it.”

From Eastern Kentucky University

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