TRAVERSE CITY — Mady and Avery McLean gained the best of both worlds.
The identical twin sisters from Traverse City Central each committed to run cross country and track in college.
And not just at different colleges, but rival ones.
Avery McLean committed Wednesday to Michigan State University, while Mady heads off to run at the University of Michigan. Coincidentally, because of COVID-19 precautions, the signing day took place at Central’s track complex.
“It definitely was a factor in my decision, just because we’ve been together 24/7 for almost 18 years now,” Mady McLean said. “So I think we’re both ready to be our own person, and develop as an individual separate of each other. We’ll definitely miss each other, but we’re ready for something new.”
Avery echoed the same sentiments.
“We’ve been teammates since elementary, obviously being from the same school and running the same sports,” Avery McLean said. “So it’s kind of nice to have a chance to grow and develop separately, but also be able to be close enough to encourage each other and then see each other grow and develop as athletes at the college level.”
The McLean sisters lead a group of six Traverse City Central student-athletes committing to Division 1 schools Wednesday.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the twins both plan to major in engineering.
The two finished first in 17 of 19 races this season for the Trojans track team heading into Wednesday’s dual meet with TC West. They finished in the top 10 of every cross country race but one last fall before the state finals.
“We have been really blessed to have such an amazing team each year,” Mady McLean said. “I love it. They’re my second family. They’re my best friends. We just have such a great team environment. It’s positive and it’s supportive. And we are just all working together to reach common goals of success.”
Once the recruiting process heated up, Michigan and Michigan State emerged as two favorites. It was just a matter of which school they’d go to. Both schools wanted both sisters.
“We were both recruited by both schools, and then we just liked the different one,” Avery McLean said. “And we wanted a little bit of space, but also close proximity. Just to be able to compete with each other in the same conferences, it’s a great opportunity to have as a sibling.”
TC Central cross country coach Lisa Taylor introduced by McLean sisters, flipping her white face mask around to reveal a Michigan State side during Avery’s signing.
Thirty-two student-athletes from TC Central and TC West committed Wednesday, plus three more at TC Christian. TC St. Francis held its signing ceremony in March, with 10 athletes moving on to the next level.
“We’re really fortunate to have three seniors signing just on the cross team,” Mady McLean said. “We just have such a strong and intelligent class. We all have received amazing GPAs and we’re going to prestigious and amazing schools, so it’s something I’m really proud of and I’m really proud of all of them because we worked through this together as student athletes, and we came out on top.”
Central’s signing class also included Leah Doezema headed to Michigan for track and field, Drew Seabase going to Michigan State for cross country, Carson Briggs headed to Western Michigan for football and Samantha Thoma committing to Michigan State for rowing.
The Trojans has numerous other signees Wednesday, with that group of six joined by Austin Bills (football, Saginaw Valley), Tylor McCoon (football, Saginaw Valley), Mckenzie Bohrer (track and field, Saginaw Valley), Emma Turnquist (volleyball, Davenport), Dominic Palamara (baseball, Grand Rapids CC), Luke Linder (baseball, Muskegon CC), Allison Hankins (cross country, Kalamazoo College), Ivy Walker (tennis, Kalamazoo College), Gabe Weaver (wrestling, Cleary College), Jordan Usiondek (women’s hockey, Marian University) and Kelsi Elliott (soccer, Kalamazoo College).
TC West’s class includes Anci Dy (golf, Indianapolis University), Brittany Stiemel (softball, Northwood), Wren Wodek (rowing, Minnesota), Christian Boivin (football, Michigan), Aliah Diehl (basketball, Aquinas), Finn Durbin (soccer, Calvin College), Tony Gallegos (soccer, Spring Arbor), Michael Elliott (football, Concordia), Josh Reece (club hockey, Central Michigan), Charlie Jeffrey (baseball, Cornerstone), Luke Robertson (baseball, Albion), Isabel Spearing (track, Aquinas), Gavin Michael (soccer, Lawrence Tech), Ava Warren (golf, University of St. Francis at Fort Wayne) and Carson Whipple (basketball, Grace Christian).
Traverse City Christian’s signing day included hockey player Ellie Visser (Aurora University) and bowlers Hunter Haldaman and Jeremy Hansen both committing to Cornerstone University.
Elk Rapids’ Preston Ball is signing Friday to commit to play basketball for Trine University.
Kalkaska’s Madison Wilkinson and Charlevoix’s Avery Zipp each committed to play softball at Alpena Community College, holding a joint signing ceremony Monday between games of a doubleheader against each other.
Doezema, who finished either first or second at eight of 10 meets so far this season, was recruited by Princeton, Michigan, Michigan State and Brown, among others.
“When it came down to it, I was deciding between Michigan and Michigan State,” said Doezema, who plans to major in human biology. “It came down to academics.”
She holds the school record for discus and shares it with Bohrer in shot put.
Doezema said she looks forward to continuing her progress in the shot put and discus under coach Jerry Clayton, who produced at least one athlete for each of the last four Olympics.
“Honestly, it’s not all about the money,” Doezema said. “The biggest thing for me was where I was going to thrive academically and with my teammates. It’s about the experience.”
Seabase, who transferred to Central from Alpena after his sophomore year, earned all-state three times in high school. Still, the team captain is just as excited about next year’s team when he’s gone as this season.
“The team this year is really doing well,” he said. “I’m really excited about next year’s team. They’ll do at least just as well.”
He’ll be reunited with former Alpena teammates Aden and Joshua Smith on Michigan State’s cross country team. The twin brothers are sophomores.
“I just really like the coach and the team dynamic they had there,” Seabase said. “I’ve been in the high school running business for four years now and know a lot of people there.”
TC Central boys track coach John Lober talked about Seabase’s long list of accomplishments, then finished up by saying, “I’m a Spartan fan. That makes it even better.”
Traverse City Tritons rowing coach Chris Bott said Thoma knew what she wanted from the first day of her first practice.
At that first practice, Thoma didn’t wait for any instruction and just took a position at the coxon position of the boat.
“I had rowed for two years, two seasons prior to coming to high school,” Thoma said. “So I had some experience with coxing before and I just knew that’s what I loved and that is where I wanted to be, so I just walked right to front of the boat.”
Bott took notice of that confidence right away, and it sailed Thoma to Michigan State.
“She’s a strategist at heart,” Bott said. “She’s always thinking ahead of the competition. And she’s tiny, which is perfect for the position.”
The 4-foot-10, 94-pound Thoma landed a big college offer, though. She also had interest from Providence, Princeton and Michigan. She plans to major in biomedical laboratory sciences at MSU.
“My mom is an alumnus actually,” Thoma said. “I was very familiar with the campus and the school itself, so it was always pretty high on the list.”