GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The twin cross country and track and field athletes from Grosse Pointe North recently signed to continue their running careers at Michigan State University this fall.
“We both wanted to run for a Big Ten school, and it was just the perfect school for both of us,” Julia Rustmann said. “We wanted a really competitive environment that Big Ten schools have to offer, and I always wanted to go to MSU because it’s been my dream school.”
The Rustmann twins capped off their careers at North by earning All-State honors with a sixth-place finish in the 3,200-meter relay at the MHSAA Division 1 track state championship meet.
The relay team finished in 9 minutes, 20.62 seconds, a time that broke North’s school record by 12 seconds.
“They obliterated the record. It was just fantastic to see,” North track and field coach Bruce Bentley said. Julia ran a 2:18 and Sarah had a 2:15, which would’ve been the second-best time in school history in the open 800 — that’s how good it was.”
The relay at states capped off four years of improvement for the Rustmann twins.
Sarah and Julia each began their careers at North not knowing how much they would like running, but a camp at Grand Valley State University before their sophomore cross country season inspired them to reach heights they never thought possible.
“The cross country camp really triggered me to push harder than I ever have before because I realized that running really was my passion, and I really wanted to try my best to meet my ultimate goals,” Julia said.
That sophomore season helped set the foundation for a breakout junior year.
“My sophomore year going into junior year, I wanted to run 19 minutes (3.1 miles), and I was running 21 minutes at the time,” Sarah said. “I never thought I would be able to run 19 minutes, and by the end of the season, I ran 19 minutes. It was crazy.”
Being able to race with each other and improve together helped the Rustmann twins stay ahead of the pack.
“Julia and I definitely push each other on a lot. I think one of the reasons why we’re such good runners now is because we push each other on so much,” Sarah said. “We’re just really competitive with each other.”
North cross country coach Scott Cooper also noted that the friendly sibling rivalry helped each of them improve.
“I think that having them as twins has really helped them, because they love each other, they compete against each other, and especially in track, they push each other in a healthy, loving sister kind of way,” Cooper said.
“They both want to beat each other, but they’re both encouraging to each other, so they’ve had their own built-in competition within the family, and I think that’s been a positive for them.”
Cooper also noted how their versatility between sprinting and distance running helped them improve in both sports.
“In cross country, it’s their finish that’s incredible. They’re just tough kids, and they go at it and push it, but then they have that speed to close,” Cooper said. “Track was a tremendous help to their speed for those finishing kicks.”
Despite their performances on the track or cross country courses, Cooper said that the Rustmanns’ lasting legacies at North will be the admiration that the other girls on North’s teams had for them.
“To me, I think the mark they’ve left is that the rest of the girls on the team love them,” Cooper said. “The girls aren’t going to remember the times they ran; they’re going to remember what kind of people the Rustmann girls were and how they helped bring them along when they were younger runners.”
Julia and Sarah will be taking that combination of talent and character to East Lansing later this summer. Michigan State has won three out of the last four Big Ten women’s cross country titles, a fact that motivates the Rustmann sisters.
“I think it’s amazing and inspiring (to be a part of that), and I just can’t wait to see what I do there,” Julia said.
Julia said that she plans to study nursing at MSU, while Sarah plans to study kinesiology.