Want to be able to tell Kenai Central seniors and identical twins Erin and Erica Smith apart?
There are easy ways of doing it. Erin has a scar on her forehead courtesy of bumping her head on some cement when she was 3 years old.
And Erica has her ears pierced three times.
But if one really wants to be able to tell them apart, the best thing to do is to simply get to know them.
"They are very different," said Kenai girls basketball coach Jim Beeson, who has had the twins on varsity for the past three years. "At first, it was hard to tell them apart.
"Now that I've spent a lot of time around them, it's pretty simple."
Beeson, also the football coach at Kenai, passed the ultimate test one year when Erica was the football manager and couldn't make it to practice one day.
"She sent Erin and I knew the difference," Beeson said. "Whenever you say something to Erin, she's always going to come back with some comment.
"Erica is more quiet."
That, in essence, is the difference between the two. Ginny Smith, the mother of the twins, is fond of saying that the two think alike. However, Erin is the one always willing to articulate those thoughts.
Erin Smith looks to pass the ball during a recent game against Soldotna.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
"Some people say that I'm obnoxious, but it seems to me I'm just more outgoing," Erin said. "I wouldn't say that I'm obnoxious."
Erica explains it this way: "She's really outgoing and loud. Unless I'm around my friends and feel really confident, I kind of keep to myself. People call her a spaz, sometimes."
So, there you have it. Telling them apart is easy, right?
"I admit that even I'll still get them confused, sometimes," Ginny said. "I'll be in a hurry, and if they're not moving around or talking, I'll still get them mixed up."
Another way to tell the twins apart is to watch them play basketball. The two were starters on a Kenai squad that finished up its season Saturday.
The Kardinals went into the Region III/4A tournament in Homer as the No. 4 seed out of the Southern Division.
After losing an opening-round game to eventual region champion Wasilla, Kenai and the Smiths kept their hopes alive for a third-straight state berth by battling back through the third-place bracket.
Friday, Erin had 15 points and Erica added 11 as Kenai avenged two regular-season losses to Skyview with a 50-40 victory.
Saturday, Erica had 10 points and Erin added six as the Kardinals avenged a regular-season loss to Palmer with a 39-33 overtime victory.
However, later Saturday, Kenai lost 45-32 to Colony in the third-place game to come up short of a state bid.
"Erin is a better offensive player," Beeson said. "Erica does all the things a coach would appreciate, but that the fan might not notice.
"Typically, if the other team's best offensive player is not a guard, Erica will be guarding the other team's best offensive player."
The Smiths have concentrated on basketball nearly their whole lives. Both were born on the peninsula, then moved to Oregon and Oklahoma before moving back to the peninsula during their eighth-grade years.
While living in Oklahoma, the Smiths pursued basketball year-round. Coming back to the peninsula gave them a chance to try different sports. Erin has tried her hand at track, volleyball and soccer. Erica has tried track.
While Erin said the experience of playing the different sports is gratifying, Erica said she would rather be playing basketball year-round.
The two have been nearly inseparable on the basketball court except for their junior year, when Erica sustained serious ligament damage in her knee early in the season.
After arduous physical therapy, Erica said she is back to the point where she is no longer worrying about the knee.
"When it happened, I was just more scared that I would never be able to play basketball again," Erica said. "It's more the fear than the pain when it happens."
The two also have achieved in the classroom. Erin has a 3.2 grade point average, while Erica's grade point average rests at 3.0.
"I definitely have encouraged them in school," Ginny said. "I'm a single mom, and they saw me go through college, so they know it's important."
Beeson said the twins also are easy to tell apart in the classroom.
"Erin is really happy-go-lucky," Beeson said. "She can get a bad grade on the test, look at somebody else's test, and say, 'Ha, at least I beat you.'
"Erica stresses herself out. She's more the kind you'd see outside in the hall bent over a garbage can before a test."
The two both plan to go to the same college and major in criminal investigation, an interest they have had since they were 7 years old.
"I don't think we ever considered going to different colleges," Erica said. "We've never been apart for more than four or five days in our lives."
The two have done a bunch of traveling all over the Lower 48 and Alaska together.
"They've seen more of this state than I have, and I was born here," Ginny said.
Beeson has grown close to a number of his players and students over the years, but said the unique situation of the Smiths being twins will make it hard to see them go.
"I'm going to miss those two as much as I've missed anyone," Beeson said. "The thing that's special is with one, you get the other. They're two unique individuals."
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