Garrett and Jacob Stanford run with the rest of the BYU cross-country team at practice as they prepare for their next meet. (Sierra Phipps)

Spectators are sweating in the hot sun as they watch exhausted young men running with all their might, fighting against the heat. Friends and parents cheer while coaches stand to the side and remind the athletes what they’re here for. 

One by one, the runners come across the finish line. Panting, one runner stops to face the next finisher. A bystander does a double-take, questioning why one of the runners crossed the finish line twice. Garrett and Jacob Stanford just smile and congratulate each other on a race well done

Jacob and Garrett Stanford are identical twin runners and freshmen on BYU’s cross-country team. They’re witty and ambitious in both team and school settings, according to cross country coach Ed Eyestone.

“We were able to watch them over the course of their junior and senior year (of high school), and they were performing, hitting the types of times and standards that we typically look for,” Eyestone said. “They’re just amazing students, as well.”

The brothers are redshirting on the cross-country team this year, meaning they are practicing and running with the team but their scores aren’t contributing to the team’s statistics this year. College athletes are allowed four years on the team, but they have five available years to use, so redshirting their first year can be a great way for athletes to get to know the style of the team and improve their running in order to be stronger contributors in the future, according to Eyestone. 

The brothers from Carlsbad, California, have been running cross country since a friend introduced them to the sport in seventh grade. Bill Vice, the head coach at their high school, La Costa Canyon, said they were the top two runners on the team.

In the 2018 California state cross-country championship, the duo’s last high school cross-country meet, Jacob finished fifth and Garrett finished ninth in their division. They were the second and third runners from their team to cross the finish line, which contributed to the La Costa Canyon Mavericks taking second overall. 

Garrett Stanford, freshman cross-country runner. (Photo courtesy of Ben Bluhm)

Concerning differences in their running style, the twins said they run almost at the same level, though they do have different strengths. Jacob typically does better in cross-country running, while Garrett shines more in track and field. Even with their differences, they often find themselves finishing within seconds of each other, and it can be hard for others to tell who is who.

“I had to check the color of their shoes for races to tell them apart, although when it got tough, Garrett did develop a facial expression that resembled Popeye the Sailor Man,” Vice said. 

The twins said that even though the sport naturally comes with a lot of competition, they prefer to be in it together. They said they try to run next to each other whenever possible so they can push each other to do better

“It’s more fun doing things as a twin, I think. It’d be wasting what being a twin is if you didn’t do stuff together,” Garrett said.

Working together to improve is a skill that the twins have also been able to apply to life outside of running. While in high school, Garrett and Jacob created an app called “Hay Bales 2,” which is based around their cross-country team at La Costa Canyon High School.  In the game, runners from the team are characters who have to escape from different things that chase them while jumping over hay bales.

“It was really fun to emphasize the team culture of our high school,” Jacob said. “It was definitely like a tribute to the team that we had.”

Jacob Stanford, freshman cross-country runner. (photo courtesy of Ben Bluhm)

Vice added that the app was a big part of carrying on the culture and traditions that the team had.

“They probably know more about our team history that I do,” Vice said.

The twins are currently undeclared majors but said that both have been looking into the computer science major, hoping to put to use some of the skills they acquired building their app.

As far as their goals in cross-country, they said they are just happy to be on the team and excited to see where it takes them.

Through it all, the Stanford twins stick together. “We try to run not against each other, but with each other,” Jacob said.

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