Metro-East Living

Freshmen x 3: Althoff triplets have each other’s back

Talking to the Monken triplets makes you wish you were one.

What’s not to like?

Fifteen-year-old Jimmy, Rachel and Sophie are built-in best friends with shared interests who never need to worry about missing a homework assignment.

“We always have someone with us who will cover our back,” said Sophie.

“We tell each other everything,” said Rachel, whose long brown hairstyle is similar to her sister’s. “We are pretty close.”

“I take good care of them,” said Jimmy.

The freshmen at Althoff took a break from dissecting freshwater mussels in biology class to talk about a different kind of biology — that of being triplets. The odds of a triplet birth are 1 in 8,000. At Althoff, there are two sets. Jimmy, Johnny and Jessica DelVecchio are sophomores.

“When we were younger,” said Rachel, “I remember Mom talking to a lady who was pregnant. The lady said, ‘Oh, we are having a boy.’ I thought, ‘She is only having one. It’s so weird not to have three.”

“When mom found out,” said Sophie, “she said our grandma (Monken) prayed so hard about her having a baby that she got three.”

They are the children of Jimmy and Teri Monken — each from a family of three children — and have an older sister Taylor, a sophomore at St. Louis University. Jim is a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley; Teri is a supervisor of card services at SLU.

Their parents met on summer break from college, and the triplets all know the story about how Mom at first thought Dad was too nice, then reconsidered. Dad had been a high school quarterback at Althoff. Mom played volleyball at Belleville East. Their grandpa Monken coached at Assumption, Lincoln and McKendree.

No wonder they’re sporty.

“We’ve all played soccer since we were 3,” said Jimmy, “as long as we can remember.”

“All love sports and compete well,” said their dad. “They practice soccer in the front yard. They run together; they hit the volleyball together. Last summer, they set up a soccer goal in the front yard with Rachel playing goalie. Sophie and Jimmy took shots as Rachel did cartwheels so that they could shoot the soccer balls through her legs.”

Must have worked. Jimmy made the varsity team. Rachel and Sophie played volleyball for Althoff.

Now, the trio is in the middle of drivers ed. They figure they will share a crossover or SUV.

Dad’s take: “It’s interesting, crazy and funny.”

Rachel and Sophie dressed alike till about third grade. Sophie liked it; Rachel didn’t.

“Now, we will get different things and know we can share,” said Sophie.

“They have a sense of belonging together,” said Dad Jimmy. “Very rarely are they apart, but when they are, they will comment that it’s weird not having the other one around.”

Are they competitive about anything? Maybe grades, they said.

Rachel is left-handed. Sophie is right-handed and Jimmy is ambidextrous (throws right, golfs left).

Dad Jimmy describes Sophie as quietly adventurous and Rachel as artistic with a love of animals and the outdoors. Jimmy is pragmatic and calm, but very competitive. Sophie’s sport is soccer. Rachel prefers volleyball.

Other differences?

“I am the messier one,” said Rachel. “Jimmy is by far the neatest.”

Rachel is the first one up at 6:15 on school mornings, then comes Sophie at 6:30 and Jimmy at 6:50.

“I sleep as long as I can,” he said.

What do people say when they learn you’re a triplet?

“They think it’s pretty cool,” said Jimmy. “They want to know, ‘Do we get along?’ ‘Are we really close?’”

Yes and yes.

When their Aug. 29 birthday rolls around, each chooses a birthday cake flavor. Jimmy likes Mom’s Texas sheet cake; Rachel goes for strawberry and Sophie picks something different each year. They each choose birthday week activities, such as going to the movies or out for breakfast — together.

The Monkens wondered which triplet would be the dominant one. They share that quality, too.

“My wife and I (say) they are each other’s governor. They will be telling the other ones what they should be doing, and not doing.”

They encouraged the triplets to be individuals, to find their own friends.

“We reminded other families that they do not have to be a package deal,” said Dad Jimmy. “Nevertheless, they have the same group of friends. The girls eat at the same lunch table, spend time with the same friends and they hang out with Jimmy and his friends.”

The triplets are likely to have a similar lunch. Dad usually packs either a turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, yogurt and fruit.

“I just eat more than they do,” said Jimmy.