Brandon and Richard Keller have known how to swim longer than they have known how to walk. Neither of them can remember a time when they weren’t around water.
Now seniors at Olympic High, the Keller twins are pushing toward both qualifying for the N.C. 4A state championship meet a fourth straight time. Taking swim lessons from the age of 6 months old has obviously paid off.
Brandon and Richard have grown up being each other’s fiercest competition and biggest motivator. Their drive has resulted in both of them being named as their conference’s swimmer of the year in different seasons and being ranked in the top 10 of their graduating class.
As the only children of Dan and Robin Keller, the twins’ sibling rivalry dates back to when they born. Brandon is four minutes older than Richard and he still maintains the 1-inch height advantage he has held since birth, advantages Brandon still boasts about.
So she could tell her identical boys apart, Robin assigned a blue pacifier to Brandon because both words start with the letter “B” and Richard was assigned a red one for the same reason.
To this day, blue and red are still the boys’ favorite colors, respectively. Variations of red and blue are also Olympic High’s school colors.
The Lake Wylie residents began swimming competitively at age 5 for the Hurricanes at the Harris YMCA. For about the next four years, Richard was the more accomplished swimmer of the two.
Around the time they turned 9 years old, the Kellers switched YMCAs, moving to the Upper Palmetto YMCA/Rock Hill Aquatics Center, which had a competitive swim program sanctioned by USA Swimming.
Over the nine years they have been members of the Rays Swim Team, the Kellers have both competed in YMCA national swimming competitions and Southeast Zone meets coordinated by USA Swimming.
Once Brandon and Richard reached middle school, they started recognizing how they compared to one another in their swimming abilities. Richard became more adept at the butterfly and backstroke, while the breaststroke became Brandon’s stroke of choice.
They also picked up on who was performing better in the water. Richard started to care that Brandon was more successful than he and Brandon was not shy about reminding his identical twin about who finished first and who didn’t.
“We were always trying to beat each other,” said Richard. “When I became the better swimmer it made me feel better. (It changed) when we switched to year-round swimming and training got more vigorous. We got more specific in our strokes.”
Olympic’s swim program was barely operating when the twins reached high school. During their freshman year, Brandon and Richard were two of only 15 swimmers between the boys’ and girls’ teams.
It was also Sarah Barrineau’s first season as the Trojans’ coach. She vowed that Olympic would no longer be a doormat under her watch. This season, the Trojans have 35 swimmers and are more competitive than they’ve been in four years.
In the 2012-13 season, when Olympic was still in the ME-GA 8, Richard won the 100-yard backstroke and the 100-yard butterfly at the conference meet and was voted the league’s boys’ swimmer of the year by its coaches.
Last season, Brandon was voted the SoMeck 8 4A boys Swimmer of the Year when he won the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard individual medley. At the 4A West regional, he finished first and second in those events, respectively.
At the state meet, Brandon finished fifth in the IM and second in the breaststroke, 3 seconds behind a senior from Raleigh Leesville Road. Brandon has already signed with Cincinnati, while Richard has signed with Towson.
With their senior year winding down, both twins are completing Eagle Scout projects. As National Honor Society members, Richard is currently ranked fourth in his graduating class in Olympic’s School of Math, Engineering, Technology, and Science, and Brandon is ranked seventh.
“I think he’s more competitive in the water but I’m more competitive in the classroom,” said Richard. “I used to be better in swimming but when he became better than me, I had to find something else to be better than him in. School is my place to beat him.”
In college, Brandon plans to major in mechanical engineering while Richard plans to focus on becoming a marine animal veterinarian.
Inseparable up to this point in their lives, the Keller twins already have a bet to see which one can wait the longest to phone the other once they go off to separate colleges.