Barry McNamara  |   Published August 28, 2018

Seven sets of siblings

Twins (and two triplet sisters) making news at Monmouth College
  • Front row, left to right: Kara and Courtney Fisher, Sara Simonson. Back row, left to right: Nicole and Emma Poole, Payton and Jordan Peckham, Jonathan and Joseph Oragiegwu, Jordyn and Payton Gosell, Kaleb and Kody Plattenberger. Not pictured: Matthew Simonson.
MONMOUTH, Ill. – At the start of this century, the rate of twins born in the United States was on a rapid rise.

Monmouth College can vouch for that increase, and then some.

Among its 280 new students, the College welcomed seven sets of twins – or, to be more accurate, six sets of twins, and two sisters from a set of triplets.

In 1980, twins were expected in about 19 of every 1,000 U.S. births. By the start of this century, the rate had increased to almost 30 out of 1,000.

The influx of twins not only bolstered the College’s Class of 2022, but it’s also drawn media attention. Two area TV stations have covered the twins’ enrollment at the College.

Athletic duos

“We always have a shooting buddy, we’re always together and we room together,” said Joseph Oradiegwu of Richmond, Texas, who will play basketball for the Fighting Scots along with his twin brother, Jonathan.

The Oradiegwus said they appreciated being recruited by Monmouth to play basketball and, like most of their twin classmates, they knew that wherever they attended college, they wanted to do so together. Both Jonathan (cardiothoracic) and Joseph (orthopedic) plan to become surgeons.

More than half of the sibling pairs will be together in their respective sports, including Kaleb and Kody Plattenberger of Mount Carroll, Ill., in football. Twins Jordyn and Payton Gosell of Algonquin, Ill., will actually do, ahem, double duty for the Scots, playing women’s soccer and basketball.

The Gosells share a common bond with the Peckhams, whose triplet sister, McKenzie, chose to attend Illinois State University. Like the Gosells, Jordan and Peyton Peckham also have a father who’s a big Chicago sports fan, as both sets of sisters are named for Michael Jordan and Walter Payton.

The Peckhams will also be athletes at Monmouth, competing for the women’s track teams. Both sprinters, they ran plenty of relays together for their coach, Monmouth alumnus Toby Vallas ’98, at Farmington (Ill.) High School, where they were part of a senior class that included four sets of twins (or, in their case, triplets).

Area doubles

The other three sets of twins in Monmouth’s Class of 2022 also share a common bond of being local products. While the Oradiegwus came all the way from Texas, Courtney and Kara Fisher traveled just two blocks. They have a parent who works at the College – Student Life Administrative Assistant Heather Fisher – as do twins Emma and Nicole Poole, whose father is College painter Dana Poole.

The Fishers and Pooles both took advantage of a tuition discount for the dependents of college personnel – that’s double the savings for those thankful parents – and that was also the case for Matt and Sara Simonson of Monmouth, whose father works at Knox College.

The Pooles, who are both undecided on a major but leaning toward business, say they have always been close, even developing their own style of communication.

“When we were younger, we had our own language,” said Emma. “I don’t remember it now, but it was something only we could understand.”

Sara Simonson said that was also the case with her brother, although they don’t do as much together now that they’re older.

“We have the same sense of humor, but we have our own paths now,” she said.

Those paths might converge in the classroom, as each is on a science track. Sara plans to major in biology, focusing on either a botany or pre-veterinary track, while Matt is a pre-med student.

The old switcheroo

Both the Oradiegwus and Gosells reported effectively pulling off the old switcheroo, tricking their teachers.

The Oradiegwus made the switch in second grade. “It was perfect,” said Jonathan, who said the ploy was Joseph’s idea.

The Gosells waited until their high school graduation, walking across the stage to get each other’s diplomas.

“It was funny,” said Payton. “All the students knew, and the parents knew, but the teachers didn’t know. I got her diploma, and she got mine.”

None of the twins are Geminis, but two sets – the Oradiegwus and Simonsons – were born just five days apart in October 2000. The Peckhams, along with their triplet sister, celebrated their 18th birthday on Aug. 25.

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