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Special Sophomores Ready for Year 2

by Camron Ghorbi

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The airplane may have taken off a month early, but Una Forsythe knew flying back to the Sunshine State was the right decision.

It was early July and the rising sophomore was downtrodden.

Forsythe was due to return to campus in August, but, with most of her hometown of Boulder, Colo., shut down due to COVID-19, she was understandably upset. Fellow sophomore Nicole Sowell was training at home in Jacksonville, looking to build on an exciting freshman season.

A conversation between swimming parents is what initially sparked the idea.

“Our moms are really close. I was feeling a little down.  I wasn’t able to train. I wanted a change of scenery,” Forysthe said. “Our moms were talking about it at first, like, ‘Why doesn’t Una go out to Jacksonville?’ I thought it sounded really fun. Nicole and I talked about it and I ended up going there for three weeks…we became even closer then.”

Forsythe flew out the second week of July, staying with Sowell and her family. She made a quick return to Colorado at the beginning of August before the start of the fall semester back in Coral Gables.

And while the idea for Forsythe’s mid-summer visit was born out of necessity, it helped shift the duo’s outlook for the fall.

That’s something that’s one of our strengths - we’re able to keep our circles small and be able to train really hard and with the least amount of interruptions as possible."

-Nicole Sowell

Forsythe and Sowell are two key members of a sophomore class with big hopes for Year 2. And while the group considers themselves a tight-knit bunch, there wasn’t much interaction before they first arrived on campus in as freshmen in the fall of 2019.

“None of us really knew each other that well,” Sowell recalled. “We had all talked a few times, just about getting ready for college and what to bring and everything.”

Forsythe said the familiarizing process was an easy one for the group.

“We come from different places but we’re all very hard workers,” Forsythe said. “It’s incredible. We all have similar goals that we’re working towards. I think that’s what makes us so close.”

Head swimming coach Andy Kershaw was struck by one thing in particular upon the arrival of the class.

“When they came in, you do see little similarities in their character and their work style, especially, is what I see,” he said. “Seeing them come in and respect each other, respect the work they’re putting in and how they live life, and seeing that develop into a friendship that I have no doubt is going to last a lifetime…it’s awesome to watch.”

That’s not to say they don’t have their fair share of differences in personality, however.

“When [Una] got here, her willingness to do anything and really, I mean this in the most respectful way, be a ‘soldier’ for the team, just carry any load that’s put on her…it has been really cool to see everything that we were getting,” Kershaw said.

The addition of Sowell to the roster has also paid dividends, Kershaw said.

“Nicole is a really captivating person,” he said. “I got to know her a little more individually right off the bat and I knew right away that she was someone who was going to benefit the team. She is someone that everyone on the team would say they love her and would do anything for her. She’s one of the most special people.”

Forsythe said the laughs with Sowell came naturally during practice, with the duo sharing mid-distance events in the lanes.

Sowell was freshman year roommates with Andrea Todorovic, while Forsythe roomed with Adrianna Cera. Aino Otava and Isabel Traba, along with divers Jessie Creed and Mia Vallée, round out a dynamic sophomore class.

“We didn’t really talk much ahead of time. We kind of just showed up,” Sowell recalled. “But we really bonded those first couple of weeks. I had met Una for the first time when we were moving into my dorm room. She had come over to help out. That was when we first started talking and became friends.”

Sowell called the sophomore group “special.”

“Everyone brings so many different talents and everyone has so many things to offer. Everyone comes from so many different backgrounds,” Sowell said. “We have one swimmer from Finland, one from Serbia, Una is from Colorado, three of us from the East Coast…it was all over. Everyone has such different personalities and the way we all train, but I feel like as a whole group, we’re all very motivated and we all came in with specific goals and knew that we wanted to work towards them.”

“We come from different places but we’re all very hard workers. It’s incredible. We all have similar goals that we’re working towards. I think that’s what makes us so close."

-Una Forsythe

For Sowell, the decision to attend Miami was a no-brainer after a visit during her junior year of high school.

“It sounds very predictable, but as soon as I stepped on campus, I felt like this is where I was supposed to be,” she said. “The meeting with Andy in general felt really good. We meshed well and you could tell he was genuinely interested in his swimmers and really cared.”

Several factors played into Forsythe’s decision to re-locate from Colorado.

“I loved how small the team was,” she said. “I love all-girls swimming programs, like we have here. It’s nicer with a smaller team. The campus is amazing, the academics are amazing and I want to go to med school and I knew Miami had a great pre-med program.”

For Kershaw, the opportunity to bring together people from different backgrounds is an important aspect of the job.

“That’s probably the thing I’ve come to appreciate the most, going from being an assistant coach to a head coach, is the opportunity to be a part of that part of the process,” he said. “To tie it in to performance, and as we always talk about, that is a very important part when you’re at The U and you’re in the ACC, at the top of NCAA Division I – there’s no denying that part – but to be able to tie that into the development in other parts of their lives is really fun.”

Now, Sowell said, the group is focused on the year ahead.

“I know this year is definitely going to be different than any other year, and it’ll be hard to put it into comparison to any other previous year, but I think the team in general is in a really good place,” she said. “I think we all have this similar goal of working hard this season, whatever that may look like at the end of the year. We all want to push each other to be the best that we can be.”