All of Air Force's qualifiers for national track and field meet have twin brothers

by BROOKE PRYOR brooke.pryor@gazette.com - Published: June 4, 2013 | 8:05 pm 0

It's not often that competitors spend copious amounts of time together before battling for the top spot.

But for twin brothers and sophomore pole vaulters Chris and Joey Uhle, spending time together in the days before competing in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Wednesday was a chance to catch up and, of course, do a little light-hearted trash talking.

"Unfortunately I don't get to go home much, being at the Academy and all," said Joey, one of two Air Force Falcons to compete in the meet. "Any time I get to see my brother is good, and it will be a blast to get to vault with him.

"We've been hanging out since I got here, going out to dinner and such, just swinging it back and forth the whole way."

The twins each captured a share of first place in the East and West Preliminary meets in May, giving them bids for the NCAA meet. The sophomore duo are Ohio natives, but Joey is a member of the Air Force squad while Chris will compete for Virginia Tech.

Joey qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championship for the first time, but earned a 14th-place finish and all-America status at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March.

Joey vaulted a perfect 5 for 5 and tied for first place with a final height of 17 feet, 8 1/2 inches in the West Preliminary meet. His brother also earned his first trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships by tying for first in the East Preliminary with 17-2 3/4 on his fifth vault.

"In high school we were vaulting pretty much the same height," Joey said, "going back and forth breaking records, who would have it one week and the other the next. It's just a sibling rivalry thing, and even more so with twins."

Joey isn't the only Air Force qualifier with a twin brother, in fact, both 1,500-meter automatic qualifier Zach Perkins and pole vaulter Cale Simmons have twin brothers. Simmons qualified in the pole vault at the West Preliminary, but sustained a hip flexor injury in the preliminary meet, forcing him to withdraw from the national final.

Zach and Cale competed with their brothers, Charlie and Rob, respectively, on the Air Force squad this season. Both Simmons brothers competed in the pole vault, and the Perkinses ran the 1,500 and 5,000.

Zach qualified for the championship by placing third in 1,500 with a time of 3 minutes, 45.05 seconds at the West Preliminary. Due to injuries, his brother didn't compete for most of the 2012-13 season.

"When he is healthy, he's probably the only person that I'm the most competitive against, just because you grow up with them and see them every day of your life," Zach said. "My twin definitely pushes me harder than anybody else I can think of."

In his sophomore campaign, Zach took home Mountain West titles in the indoor mile and outdoor 1,500, running a personal-best 3:44.38 in the outdoor event.

"He's beaten a lot of people who, on paper, are better than him," said coach Ralph Lindeman, Mountain Region men's coach of the year. "I just think he has a great shot of making the final. If he makes that final, anything can happen."

Though Joey will be going up against a familiar and challenging foe, and Zach will be competing without his other half, Lindeman has faith that his athletes will perform well in the final meet of their sophomore years.

"The best word to describe (Zach and Joey) is upstart," Lindeman said. "A lot of people would write them off and say 'oh they're just sophomores from Air Force Academy, doesn't have much of a shot.' But Joey has vaulted 18 feet twice this season and he's really on the verge of going higher and (Zach has) shocked a lot of people this year."

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