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‘Triple Threat’ Danville twins Jenna & Lara Akers ‘just like being Admirals’

May 30, 2018 FieldsColumn

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Danville freshman Jenna (left) and Lara Akers both earned the “Triple Threat Award” from the KHSAA, but they were really Quadruple Threats. (Photo by Mike Fields)

BY MIKE FIELDS

DANVILLE – If the KHSAA is looking for somebody to promote its “Triple Threat Award”, which recognizes multi-sport athletes who compete in the fall, winter and spring, Jenna and Lara Akers would be perfect ambassadors.

The Danville High School identical twins just finished their freshman year, during which they were actually quadruple threats: they competed in soccer, basketball, swimming and tennis.

If that wasn’t enough, they plan on adding to their sports repertoire next school year by also running cross country and/or track.

“I don’t like sitting around,” Jenna said. “I do like my phone, but I can put it down for sports.”

Ditto for Lara: “We were home the last week and were bored to death. We didn’t know what to do. We like being busy.”

Their mom will attest to that.

“They’re super active and social,” Leann Akers said of the twins. “They’re just full of life, very energetic people.”

Leann and her husband Hal have always encouraged their daughters to sample multiple sports.

They also had a great role model in their older sister Haley. She was involved in swimming, cross country and tennis in high school before concentrating on just swimming as a senior. Haley, who graduated last week as valedictorian of her class, will swim at Centre College.

Jenna and Lara began competing in the pool at an early age. They were in a 25-yard race in the Central Kentucky Swim & Dive Conference meet when they were only 3.

“It may have taken them six minutes, but they were determined to get across,” Leann said.

Jenna Akers

Jenna and Lara started participating in tennis clinics at Danville Country Club when they were 5.

As they grew up, their interest in other athletic endeavors naturally blossomed.

Neither twin will say they prefer one sport over another.

“Whatever’s in season; I really don’t have a favorite,” Lara said, echoing her sister.

But there’s no question what sport provided the highlight of their freshman year.

Playing as Danville’s No. 2 doubles team, Jenna and Lara were unseeded going into the region tennis tournament but wound up winning it. They beat the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeded teams along the way.

“It was a pretty big deal,” Lara said.

The twins see all kinds of benefits from playing several sports.

“I think swimming helps us in all our sports because you have to work so hard at it,” Jenna said. “And I think tennis and basketball kind of relate. One of our tennis coaches says most people who play basketball are good at tennis, too.”

Lara agreed, noting that “good footwork is a key in both basketball and tennis.”

Leann Akers thinks swimming establishes a solid foundation for any athlete.

“If you can swim, I feel you can do anything,” she said. “It’s a tough sport and you’ve got to be in great shape for it. You can’t hide in swimming, either. You’ve got to develop self-confidence to get up on that board.”

Lara Akers

(Jenna and Lara started swimming for Danville when they were seventh-graders. They, along with Haley, are already part of of six school records in the pool.)

Leann also thinks playing multiple sports helps reduce the risk of injuries. “It’s kind of built-in cross-training,” she said. 

Besides, Jenna added, “Playing different sports, you get a taste of everything. If I played basketball 12 months of the year, I’d get tired of it and wouldn’t like it as much.”

Since Danville is a small school, there’s a greater need for kids to play more than one sport. But even if they were at a Class 6A school, the Akers twins would try to be multi-sport athletes.

Chris Verhoven, who serves as Danville High School’s athletic director and also coaches cross country and track, has no doubt they’d succeed.

“Let’s keep in mind they were freshmen this year, and they excelled in these sports,” he said. “They weren’t just on the roster. They contributed and succeeded.”

Jenna and Lara also exemplify what it means to be student-athletes. They’re both straight-A students who take advance placement and honors classes.

That’s a testament to their time management. When they get home late from practice or games, they don’t shirk their studies.

But they’ll readily admit that hitting a winning backhand in tennis is more of a thrill than acing a math test.

That’s because for Jenna and Lara, playing sports is about more than just the games. It’s about having teammates and building relationships. It’s about supporting the teams they don’t play on. And it’s about school pride.

“We just like being Admirals,” Jenna said, summing it up quite nicely.

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