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Sisters of Penguins make their marks in sport

December 26, 2017 GMT

St. Cloud (Minn.) State goaltender Taylor Crosby has been following her older brother into hockey rinks since she was 2 weeks old. So, she’s entitled to mix a little whimsy with the pride she carries for him.

When asked to list family members for her bio on the team website, she wrote, simply, “older brother Sidney also plays hockey.”

Somehow, she forgot to mention the fact he’s recognized as the game’s greatest player.

That’s the way it is, sometimes, in brother-sister relationships. Actually, the Penguins could provide an interesting case study for how siblings of the opposite sex react to one another.

Taylor Crosby, 21, is just one of several sisters of Penguins who have reached their own athletic heights. The list includes:

• Penelope “Penny” Oleksiak (Jamie), who became Canada’s youngest Olympic champion at the age of 16 when she won four swimming medals — gold in the 100-meter freestyle — at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Their sister Hayley was a rower at Northeastern.

• Amanda Kessel (Phil), a member of the Metropolitan (N.J.) Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League who also has five medals in international events with Team USA, including silver at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

• Erika Rust (Bryan), boys soccer coach and English teacher at North Farmington (Mich.) High School. She was a goalkeeper for four years at Detroit Mercy, making 230 saves.

• Courtney Sheary (Conor), an assistant coach on the Boston College women’s hockey team. A former captain at New Hampshire, she helped lead the team to three NCAA tournament berths and four Hockey East regular-season championships. She also was drafted by the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

• Karli Sheahan (Riley), who somehow made it from St. Catherines, Ontario, to Austin, Texas, to become a Longhorn and join the rowing team at Texas.

“It’s probably not a fluke,” Sidney Crosby said of the Penguins having so many athletic sisters. “I think it’s that competitive nature and competitive environment that you’re around.

“In my case, it’s a younger sister. She probably saw me and my buddies going at it and that’s just how it goes. I think we’ll all say the same thing. We’re all proud and happy for them and want to see them do well.”

Jamie Oleksiak said the three siblings like to keep their athletic careers “casual” when they’re home. “It’s nice to have that release from sports,” he said.

Except when it’s time to seize control of the television remote.

“Whenever I’m home, she tries to run the show a little bit,” he said, smiling. “It’s my job to kind of keep her in place. She acts like she’s 21 or 22 and can kind of do what she wants, hold the remote and change the channel.

“I have to kind of check her a little bit and let her know who’s boss in the household.”

Oleksiak, 6-foot-7, 255 pounds, said he tried swimming to no great end.

“I’m more of a sinker. I don’t really float that well,” he said. “I could probably hold my breath under water for 20 seconds.”

Penny doesn’t play hockey, but Jamie said, “It would be interesting to see her strap on the gear. She’s such an athletic girl. I wouldn’t be surprised if she could do well.”

Taylor Crosby, who takes ethics and philosophy classes at St. Cloud, gets a lot of attention, especially when newcomers join the team and are intrigued by her lineage.

“We try to tell them she has a name, too — it’s Taylor,” junior forward Jordan Stewart told The New York Times. “Regardless of her brother, get to know her for her. But she’s pretty open about it.”

Riley Sheahan said his hometown is a “hotbed for rowing,” and his sister was attracted to Texas by some friends who went there. He has competed with Karli in driveway basketball, but he’s most impressed by what she can do when she grips an oar.

“Rowers are pretty crazy when it comes to physical strength and discipline,” he said.

Even coach Mike Sullivan can claim athletic sisters Kathie and Debbie, who were figure skaters.

“They are very athletic,” Sullivan said. “My whole family was.”

With the Sullivan brothers playing hockey and the sisters figure skating, he said, “My parents were at the rink seven days a week.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.