Brian, William, and James Corliss relish competing against each other.
The 18-year-old triplets are each other’s toughest rivals and biggest supporters on the lacrosse field, in the classroom, and in life. Keeping brotherly ties and pushing each other to excel always comes first.
“We have always been a team. The brothers bond is sacred” said Brian, the oldest. “If one person wins all three of us win.”
The sibling rivalry helped the trio land near the top of their class of about 250 at Barnegat High School in Ocean County. James, the youngest, finished second and will give the salutatorian address on Friday. William, or Will, is graduating third, and Brian, sixth.
“There’s no ill will or jealousy,” Will said. “We’re sharing that success.”
The triplets were born Nov. 8, 2002, arriving two minutes apart. The first birth was a prayer answered for their mother, Elaine, and father, James. After struggling to get pregnant, the couple conceived using in-vitro fertilization with the last three of 48 eggs harvested, hoping to produce one baby.
The couple also has a son, Matthew, 10.
“I hit the jackpot,” said Elaine Corliss, 51, a former medical social worker who stayed home to raise her sons. “I wished upon a star and my wishes came true. They’re my miracles.”
They’re not identical triplets, but some still get them confused. They have several joint nicknames — “The Pack” and “The Trifecta,” or Brian’s favorite, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, the triplet Disney cartoon ducks. Their mother lovingly calls them “womb mates.” Although they do just about everything together, the brothers have a wide circle of friends and find ways to show their distinct personalities. Brian is calm and collected. Will, the middle child, is high energy. James plays off of both.
During an interview this week, the triplets wore Villanova University shirts. James wore a baseball cap turned backward. Brian, as the oldest, spoke first. When needed, Will is the triplet’s “attorney,” pleading their case to their parents, Elaine said.
When the boys were younger, Elaine dressed them in the same outfits but different colors. When they started school, their competitive nature began to emerge, she said. Their mother asked school officials to place them in the same classroom.
By their freshman year, the triplets said, they realized it was to their advantage to take rigorous AP classes together. They bounced ideas off each other and helped each other study, but wouldn’t give each other answers. All three are members of the honor society.
“They were incredibly driven. You could tell they worked as a team,” said Tracee Dubeck, their freshman English teacher. ”It was easy to tell right from that moment that they were going to be successful throughout their years in high school.”
Every undertaking is a challenge for the triplets to see who will emerge victorious and get bragging rights. Like when they took their driver’s tests. Brian went first (of course) and aced the road test. Will went second and came up short (”I didn’t hear the end of it,” he groaned). James figured he would either celebrate with Brian or commiserate with Will. “I wouldn’t be alone,” he said.
James passed and Will nailed the test the second time.
“They seem to have one speed and that’s full speed ahead,” said their father, Brian Sr., 47, a health-care administrator. “They love to compete.”
The triplets share a passion for lacrosse. All three played on the varsity squad, and Brian, a goalie, and Will, a defenseman, were team co-captains this year. James, a midfielder, was named an Academic All-American in the Shore Conference and Brian received an honorable mention.
They helped lead the team to the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
“They got kids excited about the program,” their coach, Andrew Villiez, said. “Without them, we wouldn’t have had such a successful year.”
Outside of school, the triplets believe in giving back. They gave motivational talks to middle school students and coached youth basketball in a community league when they were 16, barely older than their players. Who had the best team? The middle child, of course, said Will.
“They’re amazing. They’re just all-around good kids,” said Steve Nichol, their former high school principal. “They make all of our jobs easier.
The triplets take the accolades in stride and enjoy good-natured ribbing. They “duke it out” or wrestle if needed to resolve any conflict. They are just as quick to defend each other.
“All of our lives we said if you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us,” James said. “You’re taking on the whole herd.”
The triplets plan to attend Villanova, the only school where all three applied. They wanted to stay close to home.
The brothers plan to share a dorm room and pursue the same major: biology. Just like high school, they want to help each other pursue their dreams to become doctors — James and Will are aspiring psychiatrists, and Brian, an orthopedic surgeon. They will also continue to play lacrosse.
“They say that good things come in threes. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” James said. “We’re brothers.”