Mule Runner Celebrates Leap Day Birthday

News Image Erin Shemeluk ran the third leg of the 4x800-meter relay for the Muhlenberg women's track and field team at yesterday's Centennial Conference Indoor Championships.

 Monday, February 29, 2016 03:33 PM

She helped the Mule quartet post an ECAC-qualifying time and finish in fifth place, earning four team points.

Not bad for someone who hadn't yet celebrated her fifth birthday.

Shemeluk was born on February 29, 1996, making her a rare Leap Day baby.

"I like to think I'm one of the only ones out there," said the sophomore, and the math backs her up. Leap Day comes around only once every 1,461 days, so with all else being equal, the odds of someone being born on February 29 are less than .07 percent. 

Last time there was a Leap Day, in 2012, there were no Muhlenberg students born on February 29. This year, Shemeluk is the only one.

Shemeluk and her family like to have fun with her unique birthday. "My dad always jokes that I really shouldn't celebrate until March 1 since I wasn't born in February. I wasn't alive on the 28th. Then I come back and say, but I was born on the last day in February! It's a tossup."

When she turned four years old and got to celebrate her actual birthday for the first time, Shemeluk's parents sent in a picture to a local television news station for a "baby's first birthday" special.

"My mom always says I can qualify for social security and my driver's permit on the same birthday - 64 and 16," said Shemeluk.

Shemeluk's friends have also embraced the novelty of her Leap birthday, giving her frog-themed cards and stuffed frogs as presents.

A history major and Dean's List student in the education program, Shemeluk recently got to share her birthday with middle-school students while doing fieldwork.

"I was introducing myself to the kids and I was like - fun fact, my birthday is on the 29th, and it blew their minds! They were like, oh my gosh, how do you celebrate? I got all the usual questions."

One question she probably didn't get – with a birthday on Leap Day, wouldn't it be more natural for Shemeluk to be a jumper instead of a distance runner on the Mule track and field team?

"I don't think my legs would hold out," she said. "I did try jumps in high school, and I actually liked it, but they said I was better at distance."

Today Shemeluk will have the chance to celebrate her actual birthday for the only time as a college student – undoubtedly combining the maturity of a 20-year-old with the fun of a 5-year-old.

"It's nice having a special birthday," she said. "Birthdays are always special in my family, but it kind of makes me stand out, so I like it."

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