Those studying the West Jefferson High School boys track and field team at the Mid-State League-Ohio championship on Friday, May 16, at Whitehall might think they need to get their eyes examined after watching the 800 and 1,600 meter relays.
Senior Cole Bare will be running the second leg while his identical twin brother Austin will be anchoring both relays. The two wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We’ve been together our whole life,” Austin said. “I want to be around someone I know who has my back all the time. We’re kind of like really good friends.”
“We work better together,” Cole added. “First off, I like (running with him) because I know we’re going to go fast. I know I can rely on him when it comes down to it.”
So far, the Brothers Bare have been a formidable opponent in the relays. The Bares, Tyler Jones and Jacob Kean placed second in the 800 relay in 1 minute, 39.97 seconds behind Jonathan Alder (1:39.72) and the Bares, Kean and Drew Smith took second in the 1,600 relay (3:43.31) behind London (3:42.84) at the Madison County championships on Tuesday, May 6 at London.
If anyone understands the MSL-Ohio fans’ confusion over the Bares, it’s Roughriders track and field coach Dana Williams. After months of coaching the senior twins, he said the only way he can tell the two seniors apart is with an events card.
Austin also competes in the 400 and in the high jump while Cole focuses on the relays. Austin, the older brother by nine minutes, won the high jump at the Madison meet by clearing 6-feet, two inches, just missing the school record of 6-4 on his final attempt.
“It’s so hard to figure out which one is which,” Williams said. “Even kids who have been going to school with them for a long time have a hard time with it. The only way I can tell them apart is Austin is a little bit faster.”
Michelle Bare said it’s great to see her two sons work together on the relays. She quickly conceded that wasn’t always the case.
Asked if the two were competitive with each other, Michelle just laughed.
“Oh God yes,” Michelle said. “They had a class together in kindergarten but by first grade I had to put them in separate classes. They were competing in everything: Who could finish coloring their picture first? Who could do this first? Who could do that first?
“They’re very competitive in that way. They’re both very determined to win. They always give 100 percent in everything they do, even if they are competing against each other.”
According to Mommies Magazine, the Brothers Bare are very rare company. In 2001, 3.1 percent of all births were twins and only one in 150 births is monozygotic or identical twin.
The Bares were living in Georgia when Michelle and her husband Jerry learned they were having twins.
“I went to the doctor and he said ‘I found two healthy heart beats,’” Michelle said. “I asked ‘Mine and the baby’s?’ He said no, you’re going to have two babies. I just started crying.”
Although they are technically listed as “identical twins,” Jerry doesn’t see his boys that way. The two have distinct facial features and personality traits that make it easy to distinguish one from the other.
“They’re alike in a lot of ways but they’re different in so many more,” he said. “Austin took my personality and Cole took my wife’s.”
“Austin is more headstrong and has to have his way,” Michelle added. “Cole is more laid back. He lets Austin do his thing.”
That formula paid off well for the Roughriders in both track and in soccer last fall. The Bare Twins left their global footprint in soccer, their primary sport.
According to Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association website (ossca.altersoccer.net), West Jefferson had only two winning seasons from 2003 to 2009 and was an unremarkable 18-33-10 in the four years before Austin and Cole Bare started playing for the team.
The Roughriders were 37-27-8 overall during the Bares’ four-year stint. West Jefferson finished 13-4-2 in 2012, losing to Grandview 1-0 in a district semifinal and was 11-5-3 in 2010, losing to Bloom-Carroll 3-0 in a district semifinal.
The Bares were a big part of that change in the program’s turn around. Playing mostly striker his last three years, Austin scored 61 goals and 31 assists in his career, setting a school record 26 goals in his junior year. As a midfielder all four years, Cole was more of a facilitator, finishing with 18 goals and 17 assists in his career.
“I had heard a lot about them (before I came to West Jefferson),” said Roughriders coach Dick Tompkins, who returned to West Jefferson last season after coaching the team in the mid-1990s. “In some ways they kept to themselves. They weren’t real boisterous or anything like that. Everyone on the team respected them.”
Being twins, the Bares almost seem to have a mental telepathy on where the other is going to be.
“Wherever I go, I know he’s backing me up. I know he will be there,” Austin said.
While they know exactly where the other is going to be, opponents often had a hard time sorting out who was who.
In one game last fall, Austin remembered side tackling an opponent. Later in the game, the same player took out Cole, thinking he was paying back Austin.
“Cole got up and said ‘What I’d do?’” Austin said with a laugh.
“Every time he makes someone mad, they come after me,” Cole added.
Whether they are playing soccer or running track, Austin said he is his brother’s biggest fan and his toughest critic.
“At times I get mad at him when he doesn’t run or play as well as he could,” he said. “I know his capabilities and I get angry when he doesn’t live up to it.”
And what does Austin tell his brother when he does compete well?
“I try to tell him he’s done well but it seems like I always end up yelling at him,” he said.
“(The yelling) doesn’t bother me,” Cole said. “I hear it all the time so I kind of expect it from him. I just want him to be on my team because I’ve never been on a team without him. I like him being there.”