In high school, fraternal twin sisters Denali Foldager and Rubye Elhard never got along with each other. That is, when it came to racing. The sibling rivalry was so intense that their coaches — one of them being their mother — wouldn’t put them in the same event.
“We’d kill each other,” Denali said.
Not literally, of course.
They were raised by parents who are regular marathon runners, Flip and Patricia Foldager. They introduced their daughters to the unique Alaskan landscape in Seward, a small town of about 3,000 people. Their backyard was a mountain. Their upbringing ultimately led them to become runners for the town’s high school, where both had state-level success.
The competition between the two continued at Cal State Stanislaus … until this season, meaning the rivalry on the course no longer exists. And that’s nice to know, considering Warriors cross country coach Diljeet Dosanjh Taylor and her other women runners are already thinking about qualifying for the NCAA Division II Championships — though the season doesn’t begin until Sept. 11, when the Stanislaus Invitational takes place.
In their junior seasons, Denali and Rubye are the faces of Warriors women cross country.
“That’s how I wanted it to be,” said Taylor, who recruited the twins when they came along with their father to visit various colleges near and far from the Pacific Ocean. “When any other team thinks of Stanislaus cross country, they think of Rubye and Denali. They’re our biggest threats and I expect big things from them this year. They expect big things from themselves and that’s how I know they’re going to be successful.”
For years, Denali and Rubye (who carried the Foldager surname until she got married in June) said they always wanted to top each other from the time their parents entered them in races as kids. But they get along just fine off the race course, evident by the fact that they occasionally complete each other’s thoughts.
Their athletic relationship changed on Aug. 28, when both Stanislaus men’s and women’s teams participated in the third annual Running of the Warriors on campus. Though they didn’t utter a word to each other, they matched each other’s pace throughout the race.
Denali clocked the 5K run in 20 minutes, 1 second and Rubye came in 7 seconds later.
“We can totally get into each other’s heads,” Denali said. “Rubye knows once she gets to a hill and if she’s in front of me, she knows what I’m thinking is, ‘I’m going to get you at this hill.’ And she knows it, too. We don’t have to say anything. But the moment we get on a flat part, if I’m ahead of Rubye, I know this is where Rubye catches up to me.”
“I think we never worked together because we always wanted to be beat each other,” Denali added.
“And so, the Warriors run was the very first time we worked together …”
“ … out of the whole 10 years that we ran,” Rubye said, completing her sister’s thought.
They hope to use this new twist to their athletic careers to an advantage. Last season, the Warriors finished 12th in the 25-team field of the West Regional Championships in San Francisco. Denali was the Warriors’ top runner after finishing 25th in the 6,000-meter run with a time of 22:18.2, while Rubye came in 22:45.7 to take 32nd.
And Rubye did it while recovering from sciatic nerve, a large, painful nerve fiber that began from her lower back to the knees.
This season, they’re aiming for nationals.
The sisters spent the summer back home in Seward. Both worked at different jobs while going on 16-mile runs, hiking up the nearby mountains and sometimes running home from work, all eight miles of it.
During this time, Rubye got married and Coach Taylor was concerned that one of the runners she first recruited when she took over the head coaching position in 2007 wasn’t returning.
However, Rubye chose to come back, as she’s maintaining a long distance relationship with her husband.
It all worked well for the Warriors.
“This year, we’re both thinking the same thing,” Rubye said of her and sister’s intent. “We want to go to nationals and I think for the first time we’re on the same level.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.