McMurtry sisters credit sports, Summit High IB program en route to valedictorian, salutatorian honors
First identical twins, academic athletes to earn honors together in school history
SILVERTHORNE — Nearly two decades before the novel coronavirus pandemic, Summit High School seniors Jordan and Jenevieve McMurtry were born into a time period with its own trauma. When the identical twins were born on Oct. 25, 2001, it was in the wake of the September 11 attacks. They started their journeys months after their older sister, Jessica, at younger than 2-years-old, pointed up at their mother Jeanette’s ultrasound and excitedly yelled out “two!”
That was the moment Jeanette and her husband, John, realized they’d be bringing not one, but two more McMurtrys into the world. It was a place which, after Sept. 11, 2001, was a tough experience for Jeanette and the family that put the importance of mental strength in perspective.
“It was emotional,” Jeanatte said, “thinking this world is so chaotic and thinking of what to expect. What kind of world we’re bringing the kids into. So one of the things we tried to teach them — 9/11 or not — is you can’t control things that happen in this world, but you can control how you respond. And one of the things I’ve noticed about these girls is they are extremely resilient. They are dedicated in school, in sports, and they know you have to get back on the saddle, get back on the ski chair, go back to the top of the course.”
Like the rest of their friends, classmates and teammates at Summit High School, the McMurtry twins have done their best to show resiliency over the past two months as their lives and their last semester of senior year experience was upended by COVID-19. The sister-sister duo of skiers, soccer players and talented students are candid that the past two months have been especially hard for them, as the confines and sporting grounds of Summit High School were the only locations they ran into so many of the familiar faces they called friends.
But learning the family motto of resiliency from their mother and father — who is a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Famer — the McMurtry girls powered through the stay-home schooling through Sunday, when they were in for the surprise of their academic life.
Out of nowhere Summit High School principal Tim Ridder and academic counselor Kelly Finley arrived at the McMurtry home in Silverthorne for a ceremony presenting Jordan and Jenevieve, or “Jenna,” with their stoles, signifying each’s respective accomplishment of Summit High 2020 valedictorian and salutatorian. It’s the first time in Summit High history twins have earned the honors, as well as the first time in school history a pair of students who went through the difficult Academic Athlete and International Baccalaureate diploma program won the honors together.
The McMurtry family is candid that they decided to move from Eagle County to Summit for the girls’ sophomore school year because of the IB program, and the accompanying teachers. With that, the family said making it through the IB program as academic athletes while also competing in International Ski Federation Alpine events across the country, and joining various clubs and varsity soccer and rugby required utmost resilience.
“Life is not just a self-help book,” Jeanette said. “Society is now all about these memes all over Facebook that make you think you can totally control everything. But actually what you can control is what you do about it and don’t you let it get you down. Jordan and Jenna applied that in every aspect of life.”
Jordan — the sister more adept at math who has an interest in political science at the University of Colorado Boulder — and Jenna — the sister more passionate about English who wants to study international affairs and journalism, also at CU Boulder — both said the challenge of Summit High’s Academic Athlete program pushed them to excel in academics. They say that’s true for most of Summit’s academic athletes. But, especially for these two, how could it not be true? After all, ever since Jenna was born 30 seconds before Jordan and had those older-sibling bragging rights for life, the twins have always been competitive. Jenna is the more feisty sister, someone Jordan says is more spontaneous and energetic. Jenna describes Jordan, on the other hand, as the more serious twin who has a better sense of humor.
Competition has been a constant since Jenna raced into the world ahead of Jordan by that half minute. During their ski racing careers, there have been numerous times one sister has edged the other by a tenth of a second on the giant slalom course. In terms of their GPAs, Jordan took valedictorian with a 4.7 GPA, but Jenna was just ever-so-slightly statistically behind.
With competition for twins, though, comes cooperation. Such as the many times playing soccer growing up when coaches would purposely put the twins near each other in the center of the pitch to not only try to fool the opposition, but because they played so well together.
The girls were glad to play along because, as twins, they understood the concept that more often than not whatever was best for the team’s success was the same as what’s best for individual success.
“It’s always fun,” Jenna said, “when in the middle of the game someone on the other team’s like, ‘wait, are you guys sisters? Are you twins? I just had a double take on you guys. I thought you were the same person.'”
“We’ve definitely been playing together our whole lives,” Jordan added. “It’s a special memory.”
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As the Summit School District prepares for all online instruction, adults are focusing their attention on the health and well-being of the students.