Downers Grove North Swim Twins End Family's Legacy on High Note

The Sims siblings have dominated for Downers Grove North swim and dive for years. Now their story ends as twins Gabby and Maddy leave for the hallowed halls of Harvard and Northwestern University, respectively.

Gabby (left) and Maddy Sims, of Downers Grove North.
Gabby (left) and Maddy Sims, of Downers Grove North.
There's just something about the Sims gene pool, that makes them champions in the swimming pool.

The four Sims children have built a legacy in Downers Grove North swimming. Daughter Haley won two state titles and went on to swim at Stanford. Son Burke was a state champion in 2009, and followed Haley to Stanford. Haley racked up 14 medals overall during her high school career—an accomplishment her sister Gabby has now topped, becoming the most decorated athlete in her family with 16. And to cap off their dual success stories, Gabby and twin Maddy led DGN to its first-ever team trophy at state Nov. 22–23. 

"I never in the world imagined that any of my kids would have done everything they've done," Sims said Dec. 4, as her daughters fielded a flurry of media attention. 

Downers Grove North finished the state meet just 3.5 points behind champion New Trier—with a total of 157 points. The team grabbed four state championship titles, and broke three pool records along the way. Gabby Sims set a record in the 100 backstroke; Gabby Sims, Gaby Serniute, Maddy Sims and Emily Albrecht set a pool record  in the 200 medley relay; and in the 400 Freestyle Relay, pool record set by Emily Albrecht, Lindsay Mathys, Maddy Sims and Gabby Sims. Gabby won each of her events: the 100 free, 100 backstroke, 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.  

"It was a big surprise, doing as well as we did," Gabby said. "It was a great finish to our season."

The swim twins' careers will not end at DGN. The girls have not only carried on the legacy of success in the pool, but also in the classroom. Gabby has signed to swim at Harvard University, where she hopes to major in industrial engineering or economics (with a minor in French). Maddy will swim at Northwestern University, where she plans to study journalism. 

The Twin Split

Twins as close as they could possibly be for their entire lives—swimming together, schooling together, winning championships together—will finally go their separate ways. The sisters seem ready for the change. During the college selection process, they visited many of the same schools, but in separate visits. Both idealized attending Stanford like their siblings, but their recruiters dropped off as others came calling.

"We wanted to experience the schools without the other one there," Gabby said. 

They visited the swim teams, got to know the swimmers and the coaches as individuals, rather than part of a pair. Courters ranged from Princeton, to NU, Harvard, UCLA, Dartmouth, and Notre Dame.  In the end, the girls landed on three different choices, and a shared interest in Northwestern. The prestige and top-notch team at Harvard swayed Gabby, while Maddy embraced the close-knit team of Northwestern. 

"It will be nice to have space, grow as individuals," Maddy said. "I think we're both ready to start a new chapter."

"We knew we weren't going to let the fact that we're twins affect our college choices."

Small Fish in a Bigger Pond

Coming off a family success story, the girls will have new challenges to conquer on the collegiate level. Maddy hopes to score points for Northwestern at a Big 10 conference meet. Gabby looks forward to joining an accomplished relay team that will qualify for NCAA-level meet. She declined a full scholarship to secure her place at Harvard. 

Though Gabby's times land her near the top of her new team, she anticipates her teammates will push her harder than her sister has the last decade of their lives spent in the pool. 

"I think that my family is one of the most supportive families," Maddy said, echoing her sister's sentiments. "You put pressure on yourself, but my family was always really good about not letting the stress weigh me down." 

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