College is a time in many people’s lives where they have to say goodbye to family and start a new, unfamiliar life.
Susan and George Minkel said they are fortunate to have each other in Carbondale, some 300 miles away from the rest of their family in Montgomery.
“It’s kind of like living at home,” George said. “It’s a natural feeling for a sibling to be there our whole life.”
George, a junior studying sport administration, is in his third year with the swim team.
Susan, a fifth-year senior studying recreation, surpassed her four years of NCAA swimming eligibility, but she stays around to help guide some of her former teammates. She said she hopes to continue coaching after she graduates.
Susan, like George, said she is happy to have a sibling nearby. She said it was helpful to have her brother around to talk with when she had difficulties in school and missed home.
“It’s comfortable and nice to know that you have someone there,” she said.
George said Susan was the main reason he decided to become a Saluki. He said Deryl Leubner, their coach at Oswego East High School who swam for SIU from 1989 to 1992, also influenced his decision.
The Minkels live just a few doors down from one another and said they see each other at least once a day. They said they convene the way most families do when the two have free time: around a dinner table.
Swimming coach Rick Walker said the Minkels have added a substantial amount of positive attributes to the program. He said Susan and George bring personality to the team, though they may do it in different fashions.
“Susan was always the one that took a step back to analyze and then take a step forward,” Walker said. “George has always been one who doesn’t take that step back. He engages right away.”
Walker said the team has had a history of siblings who follow one another to the program.
Sophomore Carly Dvorak had two sisters swim on the team before she joined. There are also two brothers on the team, senior Justin Wolfe and junior Shaun.
“I think it’s a testament to the program we have,” Walker said.
The Minkels said their family was happy to see George join Susan at SIU. They said their parents come to about half of the swimming season events.
Susan said she wants George to make the most out of his two years left on the team. She said she hopes to see him take their high school coach’s name off the record board.
“I hope, now that I’m not on the team, that George uses his time here and doesn’t take it for granted,” she said.
George said he wants his sister to continue to be around the team. He said he encourages her to take up a job in swimming, possibly at their old high school. She coached the DuQuoin swim team during the summer, a club comprised of 4 to 18-year-olds.
Walker said he thinks the hard work and determination the Minkels display will take them far in life.
“There are going to be plenty of doors open for those two,” he said.