Hilton Head siblings inspire each other on and off the course

By Jennilyn Howell

Hilton Head cross country parents Mike and Sally Manesiotis don’t miss a step on the course with distance running, and that includes having numerous pairs of running shoes in the house for their daughter and son, Sara and Jack.

The siblings (pictured right, family photograph), both part of the Seahawks’ top running squads, started to run at separate times. Jack, who made varsity in seventh grade, was running for fun while in sixth grade. Older sister Sara started the summer of her eighth grade year at the Hawkfest 5K road race.

"My dad coached my brother’s travel soccer team, so I started running laps around the soccer field during my brother’s practice," Jack said. "Soon I was running the entire time."

Jack ran his first race in seventh grade. He finished the Coaches Classic junior varsity race in fourth place.

Sara was more of a reluctant runner. Sally and fellow cross country parent and assistant coach Nick Felix persuaded the eighth-grader to participate in the Hawkfest race, which was sponsored by the Hilton Head cross country team.

"I was scared. I remember crying before the race because I did not want to lose," Sara said.

Hilton Head coach Bill Writson gave Mike a uniform for Sara after she won the 5K.

Now that they’re on the same team, Sara and Jack work out together and discuss race strategies. They also enjoy having someone there who understands better than anyone else.

"I love having a sibling on the team. We can talk about anything," Sara said.

"Besides having a ride [to practice], having an older sibling helps me relate to the older runners on the team,” Jack said. “Sara is always looking out for me."

"It brings us great pleasure seeing them work as individuals and as teammates," Mike said. "There is kind of an underlying competition between the two. There is nothing really said but you know it is there; they are both very competitive.”

Sara and Jack’s personal record 5K times of 18 minutes, 48 seconds and 16 minutes, 10 seconds, respectively, show the siblings’ dedication to hard work and competition.

"I feel that when Jack has a really good day it pushes me to get better," Sara said.

"Coach calls me a ‘caged animal ready to spring,'" Jack said. On Oct. 17, he finished first at the Low Country Invitational in 16 minutes, 47 seconds. Sara finished second with in 19 minutes, 55 seconds.

When the two are not on the course, Sara and Jack love spending time on the water. Many of their favorite activities include boating, kayaking, jet skiing and surfing. Sara also enjoys soccer and basketball. Academically, they both share an interest in mathematics.

But it’s hard for the siblings to escape their passion for running.

"At home we (pictured left, family photograph) talk about running and compare times on scrunners," Sara said. "We talk about workouts and who is doing well on the team."

Sara plans to continue running in college, but 14-year-old Jack hasn’t made any plans for his future in the sport.

"I still have a couple of years to decide," Jack said.

But Mike and Sally know a successful career in running is imminent for both Sara and Jack and are committed to their children’s passion.

"The bottom line is that they are happy for the team’s success and the accomplishments of each other,” Mike said. "I guess the only downside is the amount of running shoes we have in the house -- they are everywhere. We have Go Tri Sports on speed dial."