Abby Cox, 16, of Alexandria is no stranger to success in the pool. Since her freshman year competing for T.C. Williams High School, she’s been the Titans’ top talent, setting team records and qualifying for state and regional meets. But this year, lone-star success has become a thing of the past, as Cox’s 13-year-old sister, Colleen, has started making her own waves for the team.
Abby, a junior, is still the "girl to beat" in local high school swimming — "she has been [our MVP] since joining the team as an eighth-grader," Titans coach Brett Eanes said. She’s made regional cuts each of her high school years, and in her sophomore year she finished 16th in the state in the 2000-meter individual medley, which Abby calls her favorite event. This year, she’s already qualified for regionals in the 500-yard freestyle, and Eanes said that she is also expected to qualify for states in the 500.
Colleen, however, is not likely to be outshone by her sister. An eighth-grader unofficially competing on the high school team, she has already made an impression.
"[Her] times ... have been very impressive," said Eanes, adding that he expects her to step into first-string relays as soon as she is eligible and "perhaps help those relays to break some team records."
She has already reached qualifying times for 14-and-under Junior Olympic Age Group Championships in the 100-yard breaststroke, and is close to qualifying in several other races.
"Breaststroke and the IM are my best [events]," Colleen said.
Competition, however, hasn’t bred ill-will or gotten in the way of sisterly support.
"[I want to] help my sister succeed as a Titan," Abby said of her final few high school seasons.
"Competing with [Abby] is really fun and challenging," Colleen said. "[We] compare times and push each other to swim faster every time."
Their mother, Missi, who serves as the Titans’ parent representative, agreed.
"They ... have a great attitude [and] are supportive teammates," she said.
Both girls started swimming at age 4, and were on competitive teams by 5.
"We have been members of a fabulous summer pool, Dowden Terrace [in Alexandria], for the past 14 years," Missi Cox said, "and that is where their love of swimming started."
Both girls now swim for three teams, including the Arlington Aquatic Club, and compete year-round.
"I think the key to the girls’ success is their hard work and dedication," their mother said. "Abby practices 20 hours a week, and Colleen practices 12 hours."
And the hard work has paid off for both, as Colleen is primed for a successful high school career, and Abby is on the cusp of greater aspirations.
"My goals for the rest of my high school career include qualifying for states again ... qualify[ing] for Junior Nationals [in club swimming] and keeping my GPA above a 4.3," Abby said. "As for the rest of my swimming career, I hope to swim in college for a respectable university. I have been e-mailing back and forth with many schools so far, especially the Washington & Lee Generals. My other top choices for college include University of Virginia, Mary Washington, James Madison, Dickinson, and Gettysburg."
However, outside of their impressive work in the pool — although Abby joked, "When am I ever out of the pool?" — the girls describe themselves as typical teenagers.
"My No. 1 activity is sleeping," Abby said. "A close second would be eating, [and] then hanging out with my friends."
Colleen cited shopping and hanging out with friends as favorite pastimes. This balance of normalcy and athletic excellency has not been lost on their coach, who offered praise of their characters as well as of their prowess in the pool.
"Both girls are very happy and hard-working individuals," Eanes said, "which makes them easy to coach and fun to be around."