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story.lead_photo.caption From left, Daelyn Schmauch Kyla Bertschinger and Reyna Schmauch finished in the top six at Monday's conference championship. Photo by Submitted

KINGDOM CITY, Mo. — What some may view as the biggest sports rivalry in Callaway County isn't quite what it seems.
The top two cross country runners in the Eastern Missouri Conference have been battling each other all season to be the top finisher. According to their coach, they each hate losing.
They are also sisters.
"You don't see that happening much, but our whole family is a running family," said Reyna Schmauch, 16, a cross country runner at North Callaway High School. "We have it in our genes. Practicing together has really pushed us to want to be the first and second finishers."
Reyna, a junior, and sister Daelyn, 14, a freshman, finished first and second at Monday's conference championships, beating out runners from 11 other schools.
But what some may view as an intense sibling rivalry isn't as competitive as some may think, Reyna said.
"Daelyn's beat me before, but it's not really a rivalry," she said. "We push each other to be our best. We push each other to compete and get better times."
The two sisters simply bring out the best in each other, Daelyn said.
"I've never looked at it as a competition between us," she said. "It's more about us pushing each other to go harder, faster and not give up."
Reyna said running with her sister has allowed both to reach new heights. Crossing the finish line, the two are often separated by only a few strides, she added.
"We always talk to each other when we're running," she said. "If one falls behind, we say 'Come on, you can do it.' For most of our first- and second-place finishes, our time difference isn't even a full second."
A tough sport
Reyna is only in her second year competing in cross country. She said it wasn't her intention to compete in the sport, but a helpful coach encouraged her to think about it.
"I started in seventh-grade track, and it was sophomore year when I first started in cross country," she said. "My coach was talking to me about it and told me to think about how good I could be if I did cross country."
A multi-sport athlete, Reyna said there is something particularly difficult about cross country.
"Cross country is literally running straight for three miles," she said. "There are no water breaks, and no stopping to catch your breath. You run the whole time, and you don't get breaks like you do in other sports."
Daelyn, also a multi-sport athlete, said while cross country is an obvious test of physical endurance, it is also a mental challenge.
"In other sports, you're doing something while running," she said. "There's something to take our mind off running. In cross country you have the most challenging mental game of any of the sports. It's the hardest sport I've ever played, by far."
Chad Craghead, cross country coach at North Callaway High School, said the physical demands and steep competition make the sport challenging in many ways.
"The demands on the body to be able to compete is incredible," he said. "Also, in each race, there's only one winner. If you line up with 200 kids, 199 of them lose. There's not too many sports where you have to consistently be that perfect to be a champion."
Finishing first and second among a group of nearly 60 runners at this year's conference championships was no small task, Reyna said. However, she was just excited to finish the race after a disappointing show at last year's conference championship.
"I was really excited when I finished," she said. "Last year in conference, I was in first with about 100 meters to go, and I collapsed because of dehydration and heat exhaustion and didn't finish. Coming back, I was really happy to get the title."
Daelyn said the conference championship was a particularly tough race for her, and it came down to the wire.
"It was by far one of the most difficult races because of the heat and the hills," she said of the event last Monday in Elsberry. "It was a very tough mental game. There was a girl in front of me the whole time, and I passed her near the end. She's beaten me before, so I was glad to beat her and get second."
Craghead said the two Schmauch sisters run hard and very strategically, often finishing within hundreths-of-a-second of one another.
"In my years of competing and coaching, you don't see that very often," he said. "There have always been siblings that run together, but not usually do they finish as closely as these two."
While some sibling rivalries can put a wedge in relationships, Daelyn said she and her sister have grown closer through their cross country experience.
"I love the races where we are side-by-side the whole race," she added. "I think she's a great runner. Getting to run with her is a good thing. A lot of people don't get to have that relationship to be able to run with someone, let alone with your sister."
Daelyn also is the first to admit her sister's advice has helped her improve as a strategic runner.
"Other than pushing each other, sometimes we talk strategy," she said. "One race, I saw this one girl start really fast. I was going to go catch up with her, but Reyna knows how she runs and told me to be patient. The girl ended up slowing down and we passed her."
Daelyn said her sister is very methodical in her approach to competition.
"She knows what she's doing," she said. "She knows what other runners do, and studies how they run. She's very strategic."
Despite five one-two finishes this season, Daelyn said she doesn't really think about whether or not there is a target on her back.
"I know other runners, but I've never really thought about whether or not they know us," she said. "Maybe they do but who knows."
Best sibling duo
Craghead said he has never trained a duo quite like the Schmauch girls.
"They do everything you ask them to," he said. "They train and compete at a high level. They don't like losing and try to be the best at everything they do. They are phenomenal as sisters and competitors. They're by far the best sibling duo I've ever trained."
Although they are fiercely loyal to one another, Craghead said they do joke and tease each other on a daily basis.
"You don't hear it in meets, but they talk a lot of smack to each other in practice," he said. "They both hate losing, but they really do love each other."
While neither girl admits to a running rivalry, Reyna said she enjoys consistently beating her sister at a popular board game.
"I beat her in Monopoly," she said. "However, Daelyn's really good at flips on the trampoline. I wish I could do that."
Daelyn said she's pretty fast when it comes to lining up for holiday meals.
"During Thanksgiving, I'm first to the food line," she said. "(Reyna is) usually back talking to some of our cousins."
However, Reyna said the race to the food line may occasionally be rigged in her sister's favor.
"It depends on where we stand during the prayer and who's closer to the food," she said.
Regardless of who wins or loses, their coach said Reyna and Daelyn will go down in history as two of the greatest athletes at the school, for more than just medals.
"As far as running, they are a couple of the top athletes North Callaway has had," Craghead said. "But what makes them so special is what's inside. They're both straight-A students and are great all-around people. They'll be remembered not only as great athletes but as great people."

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