Wilmette, Sports

(T)Winning Big: Langston twins compile 52-0 senior-year record, cheer each other on to state championships

Loyola Academy senior Kenny Langston and his twin sister, Kelsey, had the unique experience of each embracing an undefeated state championship season during the current school year as both a player and a diehard fan.

In November, when Kenny traveled to Illinois State University to help the Ramblers conclude their football season with a 14-0 record by defeating Lincoln-Way East 26-15 in the Class 8A championship game, Kelsey was in the stands at Hancock Stadium cheering him on.

When the Loyola girls basketball team edged Nazareth Academy 44-40 back on the ISU campus in CEFCU Arena to win the Class 4A state title and equal the Illinois record by winning their 38th consecutive game, their roles were reversed — Kelsey was on the court playing a significant role and her twin brother was in the stands providing staunch vocal support.

“I don’t think anything like that has ever been done by twins and I don’t think it ever will be done again,” Loyola’s football coach Beau Desherow said. “(Those teams) had a 52-0 combined record.”

The Langston family, of Wilmette, following Kenny (center) and the Ramblers state-championship football victory in Bloomington-Normal in November 2023.

The twins agree that their stress level was the highest when they were playing the role of spectators.

“I honestly can say I was most nervous watching his Mount Carmel game (the regular season finale that the Ramblers won 23-21),” Kelsey said. “When I was watching it was a lot more nerve-wracking than when I was playing and had more control over what was happening.”

Kenny saw it the same way, “It’s a different mindset,” said the defensive back who was one of the Ramblers’ four captains and a member of Desherow’s Leadership Council. “When you’re watching you get more nervous than when you’re playing.”

Kelsey saw all of the football team’s home games, and Kenny was able to see several of the basketball team’s games.

For Kenny, it was a second straight Class 8A state championship season. He became a starter during his junior year (under former coach John Holecek) when the Ramblers downed Lincoln-Way East 13-3 in the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium to finish with a 13-1 record. Their only loss was a 42-37 defeat inflicted by Mount Carmel in the last regular season game.

The twins moved to Wilmette from Washington, D.C., when they were seventh-graders. Their older sister, Ally, is in her last year at the Charleston School of Law after graduating from the University of South Carolina, while their younger brother, C.J., is a sixth-grader at St. Francis Xavier in Wilmette, where Kelsey and Kenny completed grammar school.

After winning a state championship, Kelsey Langston (left) with her family (left to right) Kenny, Jennifer and C.J.

Growing up, both were all-around athletes, but they never played on the same teams or competed on teams that pitted them against one another.

“Knowing how competitive we are, I don’t think that would have been a good thing,” Kenny said.

At Loyola, Kelsey ran cross-country and played soccer her freshman year at Loyola Academy. After having shoulder surgery, she confined her sports competition to basketball during her next three years and was a starter every season.

Kenny was on the wrestling team as a junior but during the football season, he injured his shoulder in the Sept. 23 game against St. Patrick’s, causing him to miss two games, so this year he decided to forego wrestling and instead is a sprinter for the track team.

The twins’ father, Ken Langston, played college football at Butler but in his educated opinion: “I was not as good as my kids.”

“I don’t know if their sports careers could ever be any better than they were at Loyola,” he reflected. “We hadn’t even grasped or thought about the gravity of what they accomplished until Beau Desherow sent me an email on the Monday after the girls championship game.

“Being twins they have a unique bond. No question, they are each other’s biggest fan.”

According to Desherow: “Kenny was like a coach on the field for us. He knew both the strong safety and free safety positions and he would get the defense (in the secondary) lined up. He was very smart and a very physical tough player who came up with big hits.”

Basketball coach Jeremy Schoenecker described Kelsey as “the glue to our team.”

“She’s a point guard at heart but with our lack of size, she had to go down and play against post players (on defense) and rebound,” he continued. “We wouldn’t have won that state championship without Kelsey.

“Both she and Kenny are phenomenal kids. I’m super happy for them and their family.”

Kenny Langston (right) cheers on Kelsey and Ramblers girls basketball in the state championship game.

“Hearing that brings tears to my eyes,” said the twins’ mother, Jennifer, when she was told about their coaches’ comments. “This is so far beyond anything we ever could have expected.”

Jennifer said she and her husband “divided and conquered a lot” in getting Kelsey and Kenny to their practices and games over the years but during this school year “we never missed any big games — the football playoffs were over before Kelsey’s big games.”

Next season for the first time the twins will go their separate ways but both will be in upstate New York.

Kenny will be playing football at Colgate, and Kelsey will be on the basketball team at Cornell.

“They are rival schools located about an hour and half or two hours apart,” Kelsey said. “I’ll be going to as many of his games as I can.”

Back in Wilmette, C.J., who plays football, basketball and baseball, will be trying to perpetuate the Langston family’s standard of excellence in sports.

“When he was a little kid, (age) 2, 3, 4 and 5, he always wanted to compete,” Kenny remembered. “Playing in our backyard I’d beat him by 20 runs in whiffle ball and he’d cry but he kept competing. When he got into kindergarten and was competing against kids his own age he was really good.”

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Neil Milbert

Neil Milbert was a staff reporter for the Chicago Tribune for 40 years, covering college (Northwestern, Illinois, UIC, Loyola) and professional (Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls, horse racing, more) sports during that time. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on a Tribune travel investigation and has covered Loyola Academy football since 2011.

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