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Deer Lakes' Marzolf trio supportive, no matter which sister shines in pool

| Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, 10:21 p.m.
From left, Jade, Mallory and Iris Marzolf pose for a portrait during swim practice Wednesday, Jan. 15 at Deer Lakes High School.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Disp
From left, Jade, Mallory and Iris Marzolf pose for a portrait during swim practice Wednesday, Jan. 15 at Deer Lakes High School.
Iris Marzolf (front) leaps from the platform with her sisters Mallory and Jade during swim practice at Deer Lakes High School on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Disp
Iris Marzolf (front) leaps from the platform with her sisters Mallory and Jade during swim practice at Deer Lakes High School on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014.

On a daily basis, Deer Lakes' Marzolf sisters test the verity of the saying about blood being thicker than water.

Swimming pools serve as trial grounds.

Thus far, no amount of head-to-head competition has ruined the sisterhood shared by junior twins Jade and Iris Marzolf and freshman Mallory Marzolf. The youngest of the trio is rewriting Deer Lakes' record books, and that's just fine with the twins, who came to terms with Mallory's talent a few years ago.

“When she finally caught up to us, I was so jealous,” Jade said. “But I had to just try to beat her in practice and also remind myself that she deserves to be with us if she's working that hard.”

Jade Marzolf, the oldest of the daughters by one minute, was the first to embrace swimming. As an 8 year old, she envied Iris' horseback riding hobby and wanted an activity of her own. The Marzolfs' mother suggested swimming, and Jade became hooked after just a few practices and meets.

Iris and Mallory, who is two years younger than the twins, watched Jade at practices and longed to get in the pool themselves. One year after Jade joined Deer Lakes' club, her sisters followed.

By the time the twins hit age 14, they realized that 12-year-old Mallory no longer swam in their wake. Particularly in freestyle and backstroke, the twins watched Mallory race by them.

“I was mad and frustrated,” Iris said. “But eventually I realized I had to let go and just be happy that she was faster than us, because it's good to have someone else to race and compete with.”

How her sisters felt about her superiority never registered with Mallory, who made no effort to gloat about her talents.

“I really had no idea that they were upset,” Mallory said. “They weren't mean about it, which was good, because I don't know if some other siblings would be that way.

“I definitely was proud when I caught up to them, but I always wanted to just keep getting faster. I never want to just settle with where I am. I wanted to keep improving.”

Records for five individual events — 200-yard freestyle (2:01.49), 100 freestyle (55.89), 500 freestyle (5:25.32), 100 backstroke (1:03.85) and 200 individual medley (2:23.11) — now belong to Mallory, who also teamed up with her sisters and senior Renee Schmitzer to set records in the 200 medley relay (2:00.54), the 200 freestyle relay (1:46.41) and the 400 freestyle relay (3:50.40).

What Mallory wants more than any individual accolade or title is for one of Deer Lakes' relay teams to qualify for the PIAA Class AA championships.

“They're so fast, but you'd never guess they're so fast and so good at swimming, because they don't act like it,” said Schmitzer, the team's lone senior. “They don't go around and boast.”

Even Deer Lakes' half-dozen boys swimmers, many of them relative newcomers to the sport, consider the Marzolfs somewhat inspirational.

“When I first started, they were here, and I watched them swim, and I was like, ‘Wow, they are so good. I want to swim like them,' ” said boys team captain Jake Morrison, a junior who began swimming less than two years ago.

First-year coach Katherine Longwell has grand aspirations for Deer Lakes' modest swim program, and she believes the Marzolfs, all three of whom already have WPIAL championship-qualifying times galore, might help lay a strong foundation.

While she can't change the sisters' blood and water bonds, Longwell can break the Marzolfs up at practice — a necessary measure from time to time that helps the girls attain their maximum potential.

“There are days where I put Mallory in a lane by herself,” Longwell said. “That way she can work even harder and not feel or fear that she has to stay in check with whatever sister is near her.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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