Take a moment to talk with each and it doesn't take long to see that Carlee and McKenna Storey are as close as two sisters can be.
Each thinks the world of the other, but laughingly admit in the next breath that they're also no strangers to sibling squabbles every now and then.
"She thinks she can take me, but we all know whose bigger," chimes in McKenna, who is a year younger but 21/2 inches taller than Carlee.
When it comes to such a quick wit and spirited personality, the two teenagers are identical. Their similarities extend to their athletic and academic pursuits, where each is toward the top of any list of standouts.
But as similar as the sisters may be, it's their differences that make them so interesting — and has allowed them to have a tremendous impact on the sporting landscape for more than one community.
Carlee Storey is in her final go-round as a multi-sport athlete at Phoenix High, and has been instrumental in leading the Pirates' softball team to a first-place tie in the Skyline Conference heading into Saturday's home twin bill against co-leader Henley.
McKenna Storey is putting the finishing touches on a junior year at North Medford High that has seen her help propel the Black Tornado to a second-place tie in the Southwest Conference entering Saturday's home doubleheader against fellow runner-up Sheldon.
How they got to their respective circumstances is a long and short story, depending on how deep one wants to delve.
When the marriage of Bill and Laura Storey began to fall apart several years ago, the one thing neither wanted was for the family to fall apart as well.
Laura Storey took up residence in the Medford School District, while Bill Storey remained in the Phoenix-Talent district.
With oldest daughter Hallie Storey already entrenched in the Phoenix system, she opted to remain living with her father. Carlee followed suit, but McKenna's joint-custody setup involved her spending four days with her mother and three with her father and, logistically, it just made more sense to have her at North Medford.
"It was pretty tough for McKenna and me because you never want to choose between your parents," says Carlee, now 18. "It just came down to what was easier and that's how it all panned out."
"Luckily for us all, we have two parents who support us fully in what we do and will do absolutely anything to make us happy and help us succeed," she adds. "I think that's probably been the best part of the situation."
The scenario took a twist the summer after McKenna's freshman year at North Medford, when work issues required Laura Storey to transfer to Keizer. McKenna wanted to continue the relationships gained as a Black Tornado, and Bill Storey says the respective school districts have been very good about accommodating that.
"It's really worked out beautifully and I wasn't expecting it to be that way," he says. "I'm very grateful."
The school environment has been a study in extremes when you compare the girls' experiences. And, yes, they're constantly comparing experiences.
At Class 4A Phoenix, Carlee has endured a constant revolving door of head coaches in her four years of high school. She's working with her fourth softball coach — Brent Barry — in four years and played for three different coaches in her standout soccer career as a Pirate.
At Class 6A North Medford, McKenna joined her older sister in earning a varsity spot right away in soccer and softball. She's in her third year as a starter for Tornado softball coach Mike Mayben, and was granted similar stability in soccer.
"I'm very happy that she hasn't had to deal with those type of things because I think we're both different types of people," says Carlee of the constant changes. "One of the things I enjoy is going out on the field and proving things because that's when I'm at my best. I think that suits me more than her."
"It can be frustrating with a different set of expectations and rules every year," adds the senior. "I think she's very lucky to not have that."
Still, having only one coach to please each year isn't always a picnic, although each girl readily admits they couldn't be happier with their current setups.
The real difference for both has involved the sheer number of talented players available at each school, with North Medford's larger enrollment equating to a deeper talent pool from which McKenna has had to rise above.
"It's a huge school and I was pretty taken aback when I first started there because Phoenix was a lot smaller district and the teams were smaller," says the 17-year-old. "You don't have half the people come out for tryouts each year as they do at North so that was surprising and woke me up pretty quick. It's easy to step up to the challenge, though, when you have other girls who are as dedicated and talented as we have."
On the flip side, the lower numbers and varying team strengths from one season to the next has allowed Carlee to develop all aspects of her game.
"It's definitely made me become a better player," she says. "It's made me much more disciplined and a better leader with the people around me."
Having already received a scholarship to play soccer next fall at Samford University, Carlee could have taken the easy way out and settled back this spring in softball.
But that would be totally out of character.
"I feel like I'm really, really going to miss it so I'm putting my all into it," she says of her final softball season.
Her numbers certainly tell the tale of someone who could've easily opted for a future in softball instead of on the pitch. Carlee is hitting .571 from the leadoff spot and leads the Pirates (14-4, 5-0 Skyline) with 24 RBIs, 32 runs and a .980 fielding percentage after committing only one error thus far at shortstop.
"She's obviously had a huge impact on the success of our team," says Barry. "I've seen her play the last few years in soccer and softball and knew she was a pretty good player, but I didn't know how solid of an all-around athlete she was until I started coaching her. Just watching her every day, the instinctive plays she makes are incredible."
Packing a little more power than her younger sister, Carlee has belted two home runs thus far and is capable of swinging away or slapping from the left and right side of the batter's box.
Her smooth abilities at shortstop often belie the tough nature of the position.
"She's pretty quick on the field and she makes a lot of tough plays," McKenna offers up on her sister. "And, honestly, I've never seen her settle for less than what she can do. When she's on the field, she's always positive and always doing her best."
It's that last factor that has made the biggest impression on Barry.
"Sometimes when you work so hard and you earn that scholarship, you're kind of content with that," says the coach, "but she's flat-out competing every day and wants to do the best in softball, too. I've just been impressed with her attitude and competitiveness and what she does for our team."
Part of the lure of attending North Medford for McKenna was escaping the shadow of being known as the "littlest Storey."
"It's nice being able to branch out and play at my own school and not be the younger sister," says McKenna. "It's nice to know that you earned something because you earned it, not because of what your sisters did before you."
McKenna's breakthrough in softball unfortunately came at the expense of another teammate when she took over in center field as a freshman after veteran Katie Gould suffered a knee injury.
As she did in the prior soccer season, McKenna hit the ground running and hasn't stopped since. Her all-conference honors have been on par with her sister.
"For us, she's just a steady, consistent kid," says Mayben. "She's made some huge strides this year defensively with her range and ability to get the ball. Now a hard line-drive to the gap for a double is a hard line-drive for an out, and that can be huge."
McKenna hits in the No. 2 spot for the Black Tornado (9-3, 2-2 SWC), sporting a .375 batting average to go with a team-high two triples despite facing some of the best pitchers the state has to offer. Fast like her sister, McKenna also has four stolen bases and nine runs scored.
McKenna slap-hits from the left side and is gradually increasing her power potential, and Carlee suggests her sister might be the more consistent hitter of the two.
"One of the things about McKenna at the plate is she's going to give you a long at-bat," says Mayben. "It seems like she'll be at the plate for at least five-plus pitches every time because she makes contact and just doesn't strike out very much."
Although the situation may be unique, the sisters have little regret with how things have turned out.
In fact, some aspects of attending different schools and playing on different teams can come in handy on those rare times that the girls wind up at the same place at the same time.
"You have your good school friends and your softball and soccer buddies, but it's really nice to be able to vent to somebody who knows what I'm going through and has dealt with the same frustrations but isn't in the middle of it all, too," admits Carlee.
McKenna says being apart has helped each appreciate the other maybe more so than they would otherwise.
"I think we both wanted to branch out and do our own things," she says. "This way, we're still involved in doing things together but, at the same time, it's easier to enjoy each other's successes."
There's really only one aspect of their situation that each points to as a negative.
"I definitely wish that we would've been able to play together just because we mesh so well on the field," says Carlee. "But I think we both really, really enjoy where we're at and wouldn't really want it any other way."
Besides, Carlee adds with a laugh, "I think we both enjoy each other but wouldn't want to be around each other all the time."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail email@example.com