Swimming Sisterhood Billy, Currie and Cape Murch Elliot are more than just family - they're among the best swimmers in Cornell history

As they entered the final turn, sisters Billy and Currie Murch Elliot went stroke for stroke, nearly inseparable to the naked eye. Billy took a quick peek and realized, as usual, the two were virtually tethered together.

Despite their best efforts, since the womb they’ve always been linked. As 10-year-olds swimming in different heats of a 100 IM race, Billy and Currie posted the same time down to the hundredth of a second.

Genetically identical, this time the carbon copies touched within 0.02 seconds of each other on that December night in Akron, Ohio. In a 400 IM race that lasts more than four minutes, the difference in their touches came seven times faster than the blink of an eye. Billy went out 0.01 second faster in the first 50 meters, Currie was 0.01 faster at 200 and doubled that lead by the end of the race. Unsurprisingly, their names remained stacked together on the results sheet – just as they do on Cornell’s massive record board affixed in Teagle Pool to signify their 200 and 400 IM school records.

"When we swim next to each other, we probably have the best races of our lives," Billy said. "I'm really happy we don't race that much, because it's super stressful. You have this person who is an exact physical copy of yourself, so if she beats you..."

Billy (left) and Currie (right) Murch Elliot are identical twins and Cornell record holders.

“They’ve always been extremely competitive with one another,” said their mother, Lori Murch Elliot. “Coaches in high school would pit them against each other. I don’t think they enjoyed that too much. As a mother, it’s a tricky thing to navigate. When one wins, it means the other didn't do as well. It makes it hard to celebrate.”

Lori and her husband David have watched as the two have taken turns atop podiums around the northern hemisphere. It was Billy's turn in St. John, Virgin Islands, in 2010. During an open water swimming race, when Currie was ranked among the top 20 in the country and was named the state's Open Water Swimmer of the Year, Billy drafted off her the entire mile race, then hopped up and ran in while her sister was still swimming, nipping her by a second. In the process, she set an under-18 record that stands today. Billy hadn't even planned to swim the race. Younger sister Cape – then 13 years old and now a freshman on the Big Red team – finished third, making it a podium full of Murch Elliots.

"She denied for years that drafting was a thing. She admits it now," Currie said.

The home-schooled sisters never planned to attend the same college. Billy wasn't even sure she wanted to swim beyond her club. But Cornell drew them in. First, Billy committed. A month later, on Christmas Eve, Currie decided to join the Big Red.

Billy cried. Her twin had ruined Christmas.

But she came around. Eventually.

A year later, Cape visited Ithaca to spend time with her sisters. She decided, when the time came, that Cornell was going to be her school of choice as well.

Younger sister Cape '20 has already established herself as one of the team's top prospects heading into the 2017 Ivy League Championships. She swam the breaststroke leg of a national top 10 USA Swimming 400 medley relay team with her club team, SwimMAC Carolina.

Cape Murch Elliot has the team's fastest time in the 200 breast and the second-fastest touch in the 100 breast this season.

The three sisters are all ranked among the top 10 swimmers in Cornell history in the 100 breaststroke – Billy in third (1:03.67), Cape in fourth (1:03.94) and Currie in sixth (1:04.05) – separated by less than a half-second.

The twins already have their names peppered throughout the Big Red record book. Currie holds the school mark in the 1,000 free (10:01.06) and the 400 IM (4:18.79) and has six individual top 10 event swims along with one relay. Billy has the record in the 200 IM (2:02.72) and finds her name in the top 10 three times individually and four times as part of relays.

Billy enters the Ivy League championship meet looking to take over the 200 back record, where her best time of the season was just 0.27 seconds off the mark and 0.12 behind her career-best time. Currie, meanwhile, chases a 24-year-old record in the 1,650 free - swimming's version of the marathon. Cape has had a fantastic rookie season, posting the squad's top time in the 200 breast (2:22.53) and the second-fastest touch in the 100 breast.

On night one of the 2017 Ivy League Championships in Providence, R.I., Cape and Billy swam the middle legs of the 200 medley relay that posted the school’s third fastest time in school history. A few minutes later, Currie led off the 800 free relay that shaved more than two seconds off the Big Red record. The team she helped bump to No. 2 was led off by her twin sister back in 2014.

Their individual talents, not their sibling story, are why the Murch Elliot sisters will be inescapably linked in Cornell swimming history.

“We’ve always encouraged them to be themselves and never wanted them to fit the stereotypes associated with twins or sisters,” Lori Murch Elliot said of her daughters. “I think Cornell has been a great fit for them in that regard.”

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