Sophomore Surge: Traba Ready for Year 2

Sophomore Surge: Traba Ready for Year 2

by Camron Ghorbi

Isabel Traba didn’t know what to expect.

Entering her freshman year at the University of Miami, she had committed to one personal goal: having fun in her first year as a collegiate swimmer.

“I like to set big goals and try to do everything I can to achieve them,” Traba said. “I didn’t know how it was going to go, and didn’t know what to expect, because it’s really a whole new world. It’s so different than club swimming. My primary goal was to have fun and work as hard as I possibly could.”

Head swim coach Andy Kershaw and assistant coach Tanja Kyllainen knew they had recruited a special talent to join the budding program, and came away impressed by her scrappy, determined character.

But it is safe to say that Traba exceeded even their expectations in her first season at The U.

“We knew she had the talent to perform at a high level, but the question can become – how often can they do that? One of the things I noticed early on with her in practice is that, if I put a challenge out directly to her and said, ‘Isabel, I’d like to see you go this time with this effort,’ she would do that,” Kershaw said. “She would do whatever she had to do to hit that mark. That was certainly a button we found we could press early on and I think it is a testament to her work ethic.”

Traba managed to crack Miami’s history books in her first season, moving into fifth place all-time in program history in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:01.43. She was the fifth-highest scorer for the swimming team over the course of the season, serving as one of Miami’s top performers in the lanes.

I felt like, coming in as a freshman, I had something to prove – not just to Andy, Tanja and the team, but to myself, that I deserved to be there and make a contribution. That’s what I did. I worked my butt off every day and acted like I didn’t have a set place. I had to ‘earn my seat,’ as we say.

Isabel Traba

That’s not to suggest that there weren’t the traditional ups and downs of any student-athlete’s first year; right before a midseason meet at the Kansas Classic, Traba injured her elbow and dealt with the injury for the remainder of the season.

“For me, I’ve always been the kind of person who doesn’t take disappointment very well,” Traba said. “I kind of dwell on it more than I should. When I got injured, it was hard on me. We got to midseason and all I wanted to do was swim. All I wanted to do was contribute. It was hard for me not to, but I did as much as I could.”

That included swimming on a relay and competing in the 100-yard butterfly in Kansas – all while managing her first significant setback.

“I wanted to do it for the team. I knew I wasn’t going to make my elbow worse, so if I’m able to do it, I’m always going to do whatever I can to help the team,” Traba said.


Kershaw said that dealing with early adversity can ultimately lead to more success for young swimmers like Traba later on in their careers, and came away impressed with her toughness.

“Those are moments that everyone goes through at some point,” he explained. “When you get them out of the way early, it builds your character and ability to handle those situations.”

Traba lights up when she talks about the impact of the culture in her first year at Miami, including teammates, coaches and the program’s support staff. She credits her surrounding cast as pivotal to her own success and as helpful in getting her through any adversity.

“It’s such a great feeling knowing that you have all these people behind you and supporting you. The amount of support I felt, literally since the first day I got on campus, it was unmatched,” Traba said. “I had never felt that much support from people I had barely known before. Going through the season, I got so close with all the girls, which was so awesome.

“For me, I’ve always loved the sport of swimming, but I’ve loved it more for the people I got to do it with. At Miami, the culture makes it so much more fun to train with these people every day and go through the ups and downs of everything with them. It makes it so much more special when you get to share your successes with them and know that they helped you achieve that. It’s such an awesome feeling.”

Now, her new family will grow with a more familiar addition; Savannah Barr, who joins the program as an incoming freshman from the same club program in Sarasota, Fla., where Traba competed during her junior days.

“Me and Isabel are really close,” Barr said. “Being able to swim on the same team again is really exciting. We’ve had a lot of good memories and I’m glad we’re going to be able to continue to build a lot more in college.”

For Kershaw, adding student-athletes like Traba or Barr are wins on the recruiting scoreboard, where the Hurricanes have been able to add some significant talent from the Sunshine State – including Traba’s classmate, Nicole Sowell, from a historically successful program in Jacksonville.

“In our situation, those are recruiting battles that we certainly want to win,” Kershaw said. “We’ve got a lot of great recruiting competition in the state. It’s another thing I’m proud of and another challenge I look forward to. We’re extremely proud of not only the swimmers we’ve gotten, but also just the people we’ve gotten. The people have been the right people.”

After a challenging end to her season – due in large part to the nagging elbow injury – Traba is excited to take the next step in her career. After committing to having fun in her first season, she now expects a sophomore surge – certainly no signs of a slump.

“My performance at the ACC Championships at the end of the year was not what I wanted it to be. That was definitely tough. It brought me down and it was hard for me to take it all in while I was there, to be able to reflect and move on,” she said. “Looking to this season, I’m focusing on going with whatever happens. If I fail or get knocked down, I’m going to take it, learn from it and add the fuel to the fire. I’ll keep pushing, keep doing everything I can to better myself and do whatever I can to help my team.”