Maggie Shea and Stephanie Roble once saw each other as worthy competition.
And they still do.
That may come as a surprise to many given the dynamic sailing duo is now headed to the Tokyo Olympics as teammates in the same boat.
"Maggie and I originally met when we were in high school. We were competing against each other in a single-handed class called the Laster," Roble, who grew up in East Troy, Wisconsin, told NBC Chicago. "We were very competitive against each other and we were constantly battling it out on the weekends... Maggie likes to call describe it as frenemies at the beginning, just because we were so competitive with each other - still are to this day."
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But eventually, the competition turned to respect and a shared goal: to make it onto Team USA.
So the two high schoolers teamed up with hopes of first representing the U.S. at the Youth World Championship. While they didn't qualify, their quest for victory sparked a "lifelong friendship and team dynamic that we've carried forward into our 30s," Roble said.
Still, the two spilt apart for college before coming back together, this time determined to reach their goal.
"Our team dynamic is something that we work hard on a lot," Shea, of Wilmette, said. "It's this constantly evolving dynamic that takes a lot of attention and work. You know, we have to debrief how we communicate, we debrief how we interact, we debrief our team dynamic... we have to be really intentional with our communication because we are really great, great friends, but we're also business partners and teammates, you know, and sometimes what's best for the relationship in one of those rooms isn't necessarily best for the other and so we just make sure that we have the same priorities all the time."
Their ability to be friends and teammates also helped them navigate a challenging training and competition schedule during the coronavirus pandemic.
"In May I bought a used car, packed up all my belongings and moved down to Miami to near Steph so we could train full-time when travel was really not a possibility," Shea said. "COVID changed our schedule and the rhythm of things for sure. You know, it felt like the whole year was either full throttle forward or things came to a screeching halt."
It was those unknowns that forced them to further their team bond, Roble said.
"COVID taught us a lot about how to be agile as a team," she said. "We had to change plans a lot, we had to be in different countries for long periods of time because travel was so complicated. We didn't know what regattas were going to happen so there was a lot of unknown and, I think, you know, we've learned a lot about just how we can make the most out of every situation that we're in and I'm really proud of our team for our ability to do that."
For Shea and Roble, the extra year of training after the Games were postponed to 2021 was also helpful.
"We felt grateful to have some more time before the Olympics," Shea said. "We felt like our game wasn't truly finished. You know, it wasn't a fully, totally finished product and so we were really eager to get back to work."
"Our long-term goal is still bring home a medal from the Olympic Games," Shea said.