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Naperville Central's Rachel Hoffman crosses the finish line during the Naperville Twilight Cross Country Invite. | Steve Johnston/For Sun-Times Media

Forgive the folks at Proviso West if they were thrown off.

At a track meet in March, opponents watched as the girls from Naperville Central outran the field in the 3,200-meter relay.

Puzzling thing was, it looked like the same girl ran three of four relay legs.

“They thought I had run half the 4x8,” Rachel Hoffman said. “Sometimes people get really confused.”

It wasn’t just Rachel running, of course.

A Naperville Central junior, she is joined on the Redhawks’ track team by identical sisters Katie and Nikki. The Proviso West meet, where the Redhawks won the 3,200 relay in 9:35.65, was the first time the Hoffman triplets all ran together.

“I know of twins from around the state that have had success, but yeah, they’re the first triplets I’ve heard of,” said Matt Blondell, who coaches the Naperville Central distance runners.

By the looks of things, the Hoffmans are about to become known for more than just looking alike.

Rachel and Katie went 1-2 in the 1,600 at the DuPage Valley indoor meet, Rachel winning in 5:03.54, and Rachel completed a rare conference double by also taking the 800 in 2:18.23.

Katie won the DVC open 3,200 in 10:55.59, and Nikki was second in the 800 in 2:20.13.

With their talent, the school record of 9:20 in the 3,200 relay could be a legitimate target.

“This has really been their breakout year,” Blondell said. “They were always solid runners in the past, but they’re really dropping some serious times.”

All three girls forge their own identity on the track.

Katie, an All-Stater in cross country, excels at the 3,200. Rachel races well in the 800 and 1,600 distances. Nikki, healthy after missing all of cross country season, is more competitive in the short, faster 400 and 800.

Socially, Katie is the artistic and quieter one, concerned about her next race and determined to succeed. Nikki is more laid back.

“Rachel, I feel like she’s the most mature. She can get a little bossy,” Katie confided. “She’s like the mom. She’s really supportive when it comes down to it.”

What bonds them is greater, like watching the Blackhawks and riding rollercoasters. And, yes, running.

Neither parent ran, but the girls got interested in cross country and track in sixth grade at Madison Junior High, following the path of older sister Ellie.

Blondell said they have the natural ability and talent to be runners. Consistency of training and added strength made for a breakthrough indoor season which Blondell said has made them readjust goals going forward.

The first big test outdoors should come at Downers North next Thursday, a meet featuring top distance runners from Glenbard West, Palatine, Prospect and Downers North.

“They’ve gone past what we expected them to do at the end of the season,” Blondell said, citing Rachel’s 1,600 time that is 20 seconds faster than her previous best. “I’d be happy with one of them, of course, but we’re fortunate to have three talented runners that are meant to be runners.”

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