WHEELING - Dr. Heather Wayt ran her way into Ohio Valley track fame as a standout first at Wheeling Central Catholic High School, then as a three-time NCAA national champion and six-time All-American at Mount Union College in Ohio.
Now, her 12-year-old twin daughters, Ireland and Kenadee, are looking not only to join Mom among the Ohio Valley's track and field elite, they're most likely to pass her.
That's right. Both girls - identical twins who will be entering the seventh grade this fall at The Linsly School - already are pushing Mom on the track. Ireland, the older of the two by a minute, set personal bests at Linsly this past season in the 800 meters (2:39.58) and the mile (5:53.12). Kenadee's specialty is in the sprints.
Heather Wayt stands with her twin daughters, Ireland, left, and Kenadee, prior to a run at the Wheeling Jesuit University track.
To really grasp the girls' athletic abilities, consider this: in this year's Ogden Mile, held during the annual Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic, Ireland ran a 5:18.1 mile, good enough for 10th place overall. Kenadee finished just behind her in 11th place with a 5:25.
The following day, Ireland ran the 5K during the Ogden events. There, she placed 11th overall - third among all female runners - with a time of 20:42.6.
Two Linsly track records also are within reach for Ireland. In the 800 meters, the Linsly record is 2:27.6, less than 12 seconds faster than the time Ireland posted as a sixth-grader. She's a little more than 14 seconds off the high school mile record of 5:38.7.
Rather impressive, to say the least.
"They surprise me more and more every year," Heather Wayt said, noting she would be taking over middle school track coaching at Linsly this coming school year. "Running is just so natural to them. If they do decide to go with it and train to be competitive runners, they could do some really incredible things. ... I never ran a 5:53 in the mile in high school."
The reason Mom questions whether the girls will continue to run track through high school and into college, as she did, is their love for another sport: soccer.
On Saturday, Kenadee and Ireland, with teammates Alyssa Otto and Nicole Billie, kicked off a new three-on-three soccer season by competing in a tournament in Pickerington, Ohio. They placed third in their age bracket, which allows them to advance to a regional event in the near future.
The girls' ultimate goal is to compete in the Disney three-on-three soccer championships at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla., early next year.
The girls made it to Orlando for the three-on-three championships earlier this year, winning tournaments in Columbus, Ohio, and Lexington, Ky., to advance to the finals. They placed second overall, losing in a shootout in the finals.
Three-on-three soccer features a small field, no goalie and a small net. The keys to success in the matches are quickness and accuracy, two abilities the Wayt twins possess in droves.
"Soccer's really fun, it's a team sport so it gives me a chance to spend time with my friends," Ireland said. "I like soccer better but I'm better at track."
"I also like soccer better, but track is what I'm best at," Kenadee added.
On their travel soccer team, Kenadee plays left midfielder while Ireland plays right midfielder and sweeper.
The girls receive additional soccer training and development with the region's top soccer players at the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Training Academy, which allows them to work and learn from the Riverhounds' professional staff and players and also practice at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh.
With all this activity and driving back and forth to Pittsburgh and other parts of the region - much homework is done in the backseat of Mom's SUV, Heather Wayt reports - it would reason the girls' academic performance could suffer. But that's not the case in the Wayt household, where education is valued above all else.
"They just finished one-two in their class at Linsly for the second straight year," Heather Wayt said. "They both want to be doctors when they grow up, and maybe coach track or soccer. We're very proud of them."
The doctor in Heather Wayt also is quick to slow things down when the need arises, as she and her husband, Dr. Michael Wayt, are used to seeing injuries in athletes who are pushed too hard. Their main concern is with chronic injuries.
"Anytime the girls complain of aches and pains, I worry," Heather Wayt said. "We focus so much on core strength and flexibility to help prevent injuries. The kids are still growing, and you always have to watch just how hard they push themselves."
The one person who can push both girls' buttons better than anyone is their 7-year-old sister, Brooklynn. She also competed this year in the Ogden Mile, finishing 28th overall with a time of 9:12.6. She's playing soccer this year and, as mom puts it, is just starting her athletic career.
"Brooklynn is the only one who can always tell us apart," Kenadee said.
And it appears the youngest Wayt will have many opportunities in the coming years to identify her sisters to fans at track and soccer matches, as they blaze their path to Ohio Valley athletic stardom.