If you look closely, you can spot the small physical differences that separate Bethany and Megan Hasz. Bethany is slightly taller than her identical twin. Megan's brown braids, which hang down her back just like her sister's, are a tiny bit longer.
Since they began running for the Gophers, the siblings from Alexandria have diverged in another way. Megan is moving to the longer end of the distance spectrum, tackling the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, while Bethany is competing in races from 1,500 to 5,000 meters. They still do most things together, including running in this weekend's Big Ten outdoor track and field championships — and tag-teaming questions about a year in which each has set two Gophers records.
"It's been kind of nice for us both to have something that's just a little bit our own, in a way," Megan said.
"And kind of see what we can do in workouts when we don't have each other," Bethany added.
"It's like a different kind of pushing yourself," Megan said, finishing off the thought. "But we still do 90 percent of our runs and workouts together, so it's not that different."
At the Big Ten meet, which begins Friday in Iowa City, the Hasz sisters hope to continue building on their fastest year yet. They set Gophers records in the 10,000 (Megan) and the 5,000 (Bethany) at the Stanford Invitational in March. During the indoor track season, they ran the fastest times in program history in the 3,000 (Bethany) and the 5,000 (Megan) at the Iowa State Classic.
Now in their second season of track, the Haszes have run three seasons of cross-country at the U and were the Gophers' top two finishers in six meets last fall. Coach Sarah Hopkins said it took some time to tease out the unique qualities of two runners who look, sound and think alike.
Though they have embraced slightly different paths, Hopkins has found them "super similar" in most ways, including their dedication to a sport they've loved since elementary school.
"They're probably two of the best high school recruits we've ever gotten in the program," said Hopkins, the Gophers' head coach for women's cross-country and an assistant for the track and field. "A lot of elite kids are resistant to change. But they came in and said, 'Tell us what to do, and we'll do it.'
"This last year was the first year they trained separately a little bit. It would have been very easy for them to stay with their security blanket, wanting to do the same thing, but they were very open. I think that's been very good for them, to still have their togetherness but also gravitate to the things each one is a little better at."
The Haszs have competed alongside each other from the time they began running. Both were five-time all-state performers in cross-country at Alexandria High School, where they took first and second at the state Class 2A meet as sophomores, juniors and seniors. Bethany won the crown in 2015 and 2013, Megan in 2014.
They were often neck-and-neck on the track, too, with Bethany winning three state championships and edging Megan for the Class 2A title in the 1,600 meters in their final prep season. Both said having a built-in training partner and racing buddy has been invaluable, with an equal always there to make things both challenging and fun.
At the U, Hopkins discovered that Bethany had more natural speed, while Megan had a little more aerobic capacity. They still compete against one another in the outdoor 5,000 — running the two fastest times in school history as redshirt freshmen last year — but have thrived in their separate events.
"We're equally competitive," Megan said. "We always want to beat each other, but I'll always be happy if [Bethany] wins. She's my best friend."
"That's always been true," Bethany said. "I want her to do well just as much as I want myself to do well. It might seem weird for someone who hasn't had that, but it's all we've ever known."
Going their own ways has had a nice side benefit, too: Each twin can finally watch her sister race and cheer her on. At Stanford this spring, Megan got to see Bethany break her own program record in the 5,000 with a time of 15 minutes, 45.72 seconds. Not long after, Bethany watched Megan cut more than 15 seconds off the Gophers' record in the 10,000, finishing in 33:09.57.
The Hasz twins share the same major (kinesiology), the same career plan (physical therapy) and the same residence — a necessity, since they also share a wardrobe. Hopkins said they are willing learners with tremendous potential for growth as they gain racing experience.
The coach believes the sisters are capable of finishing in the top three or four in each of their events at the Big Ten meet. Beyond that, she's sure of only one thing: Whatever the Haszs do, it's likely to be in unison.
"If they graduated this year, they could get pro contracts right now," Hopkins said. "They can go as far as they want to go. It will be fun to see what the next two years bring."