High School Sports

Twins Kelly, Lilly Tran ‘polar opposites’ in swimming pool for Wilson High

Twin 16-year-old sisters Kelly, left, and Lilly Tran are standout swimmers for Wilson High. Kelly competes in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke; Lilly races the 500 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke.
Twin 16-year-old sisters Kelly, left, and Lilly Tran are standout swimmers for Wilson High. Kelly competes in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke; Lilly races the 500 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke. Staff photographer

Kelly and Lilly. Lilly and Kelly.

In the halls of Wilson High School, the Tran twins are often addressed interchangeably.

But in the pool, it is clear they are different people.

Kelly, who was born two hours before her fraternal twin, is the Rams’ star in the 100-yard backstroke, which she swam in last year’s Class 3A state meet.

Lilly, who hates being called the “little sister” because she’s taller by a half-inch, is getting notice as a distance swimmer after being limited most of last year with an ankle injury.

“We’re very competitive,” Lilly said. “We’re always wanting to beat each other.”

“I always push her to do her best, and she does that for me,” Kelly added.

In their junior season with the Rams, Kelly is hoping to improve upon last year’s 20th-place state finish (1:06.10) in the backstroke and also qualify in the 200 individual medley.

Lilly is focusing on the 500 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.

“Last year was a major setback,” Lilly said. “(Now) she’s the successful one, but this year I’m going to change that to both of us.”

Wilson coach Danielle Gunns said that when they joined the team as freshmen, the twins would want to go head-to-head and it wouldn’t be productive.

“Now they allow their competition to enhance their swimming,” she said. “They’ve allowed it to become a strength, and that’s been amazing to watch.”

Both sisters said they enjoy facing off in meets.

“When she competes with me, she’s supporting me,” Lilly said. “She’s pushing me to be closer to my goals.”

Gunns said that despite having a similar training style, the Trans are “polar opposites.”

In sprints, “Kelly is like this little windup doll — you wind her up, and she goes.” Lilly, on the other hand, “has a tendency to super excel at distance events.”

Despite their competitive nature, the twins are each other’s source of support. Their parents run a pair of nail salons and are unable to make it to many meets, and their two siblings don’t do sports.

In addition to swimming for Wilson, they compete for the Tacoma Swim Club. It’s something they have been doing together since they were 8.

“It’s kind of a struggle,” Kelly said of their lack of family time. “But it’s also given me and my sister a better bond.

“We’ve been through a lot together as swimmers, so we can talk about things.”

Down the road, that bond probably will exist over long distance. The twins, both of whom are honors students in multiple Advanced Placement classes, hope to swim in college. But they don’t expect to end up at the same school.

“I want to be my own person,” Lilly said.

Still, being apart won’t be easy.

“We created a bond (through swimming),” Kelly said. “It’s hard to step away from that.”



Puyallup’s state champion freestyle relay team has some new faces. There still are individual state swimmers Mackenzie Mergel and Lindsey Muiznieks, but instead of Amy Kiuchi, who has graduated, it’s now Kacey Kiuchi, along with Gabi Dunayski. Mergel placed sixth individually in the 100 breaststroke at the 4A state championships last year and ninth in the 200 free after helping the Vikings win the 200 free relay title and place second in the 400 free relay. Muiznieks placed fifth individually in the 100 butterfly.


Kaycee Simpson has had a 100-degree fever and Stadium coach David Baughman couldn’t get her to sit out. No South Sound swimmer placed higher in an event than Simpson did last season, finishing third in the 200 individual medley. Baughman said Simpson has had to balance full-time Running Start classes with swimming this year, but she’s still got that same competitive fire. “You tell her, ‘You can’t do it,’ she’ll do it,” Baughman said.


4A: Ursula Andren, Gig Harbor, jr. (100 breaststroke); Hannah Barker, Timberline, soph. (200 free); Katie Beliveau, Kentlake, jr. (diving); Haley Childress, Kentridge, jr. (100 butterfly, 50 free); Lindsey Hanger, Tahoma, jr. (100 free, 50 free); Mackenzie Mergel, Puyallup, sr. (100 breaststroke, 200 free); Aspen Monkhouse, South Kitsap, sr. (50 free); Lindsey Muiznieks, Puyallup, sr. (100 butterfly); Ally Norman, Olympia, jr. (200 free, 100 butterfly); Kaycee Simpson, Stadium, jr. (100 butterfly, 200 IM).

3A: Madeleine Dodge, Wilson, sr. (200 free, 100 free); Kailyn Fleeman, Bonney Lake, soph. (500 free, 200 IM); Hanna Grantham, North Thurston, soph. (200 free); Arielle Howell, North Thurston, sr. (100 free); Mikaela Miele, Sumner, soph. (500 free); Athena Peterson, Peninsula, jr. (200 free; 500 free); Miriam Smith, Lakes, jr. (50 free); Tatiana Tubberville, Central Kitsap, soph. (50 free; 200 free).

2A: Sarah Burlingame, Steilacoom, sr. (diving); Rachel Forbes, Steilacoom, soph. (50 free); Lillian Kurzhal, Washington, sr. (100 butterfly); Kylie Otton, Tumwater, sr. (100 butterfly); Natalie Raschke, Steilacoom, jr. (diving).