Higher Learning at AU
Friday, August 25, 2006
"Records," American University volleyball coach Barry Goldberg said sympathetically, "are meant to be broken."
He explained this on a recent afternoon to his most famous record holders, freshmen Ann and Claire Recht, the world's tallest female twins. As high schoolers in Milwaukie, Ore., their year-long pursuit of that Guinness-certified record yielded complimentary trips to New York, national television appearances and countless radio and newspaper interviews.
But as the Rechts recently learned, another pair of female twins -- Arizona basketball players Beatrice and Suzy Bofia -- hopes to break their record, possibly as early as this fall. And so, Goldberg's consolations notwithstanding, the Rechts are getting ready to revisit their own record, planning to prove to Guinness that they now measure 6 feet 7 1/2 inches (Ann) and 6 feet 7 1/4 inches (Claire).
"I can't just let them win," Claire said this week. "Now, it's a competition."
She said this with a smile, while Goldberg chuckled in the background. This is why he recruited two sisters who have played serious volleyball for less than two years, sisters who still served underhanded when they entered high school and who had never trained with weights outside gym class before they came to American.
Sure, they immediately became two of the tallest Division I women's volleyball players in the country, but Goldberg was equally drawn to their playfully competitive personalities. The Rechts didn't blush when diners at a local Italian restaurant dropped their silverware to stare during their official visit to the school last spring. They didn't shrink when passersby asked if they played basketball; "Do you play miniature golf?" is their standard answer. They weren't embarrassed as they excitedly asked Goldberg if he was familiar with the Tysons Corner store Tall Girl.
"I said, 'Well, no, I don't really know very much about it,' " he recalled, " 'but I guess I'm going to be finding out.' "
Eighteen years of such pursuits, it turns out, have prepared the Rechts for the first few weeks at American, where they live in separate dorm rooms on the same floor. They were unfazed by the AU student who asked Claire if she was "one of the giants." They are used to the frequent glances they get from strangers, although they think it's rude to stare. They laughed about the extra-long twin beds they requested for their dorm rooms and the extra-large volleyball jerseys that billow around their petite torsos and still aren't long enough. Jo Recht, their mother, who made their prom dresses by hand and lengthens their pants to a 40 inseam, plans to bring her sewing machine and meet the Eagles during a road trip to California.
The Rechts' lives, not surprisingly, often have required such minor alterations. Parents Eric and Jo Recht are 6-5 and 6-3; their house has extra tall shower heads that turned out not to be quite tall enough. Older sons Karl and Warren are 6-9 and 6-8, while middle child Martha is 5-11. "She's our little short person," Claire said.
Claire and Ann measured 22 inches at birth, and as toddlers their pediatrician predicted they'd grow well past 6 feet. They were a head taller than preschool classmates. By midway through elementary school, they were complaining about the lack of "fun colors" in their women's-size shoes and looking their teacher in the eye. Soon, adults told them they looked too old for trick-or-treating. By middle school, they were struggling to find khakis for their school uniforms.
They coined a term for the boys who would puff out their chests and strut by, attempting to measure the twins' height against their own: "The Run-By." By their freshman year, a friend discovered that they were taller than Heidi and Heather Burge, Guinness's tallest female twins. The Rechts, who never shied away from tall talk -- quibbling over which sister was taller and bragging each time they grew an inch -- decided to pursue the record.
"Why not?" Claire Recht explained. "I mean, people do all these weird things to get into the book. I don't have to do anything but just be there, be myself."