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Track and Field: Twins dominate in first races

Joseph Monardo | Monday, December 5, 2011

Any college track and field program in the country would be thrilled to welcome a highly touted recruit with blazing speed and a long list of high school accomplishments. The Irish were lucky enough to get two from the same household.

Freshmen Kaila and Jade Barber are only one meet into their college careers, but the twins are impressing coaches with their raw talent and are already turning in winning performances.

In Friday’s season-opening meet, the Blue and Gold Invitational, Kaila took the top spot in the 60-meter hurdles, long jump and 400-meter hurdles, while Jade captured third in the 60-meter hurdles with a Big East qualifying time. The twin sisters are excited to experience success immediately in their collegiate careers, Kaila said.

“It’s really cool,” she said. “To be at college and do really well, it’s really nice, like all the hard work really paid off.”

The sisters also combined to capture one more win Friday, as Jade ran the first leg in Notre Dame’s winning 400-meter relay team and Kaila ran the final portion of the race.

“I love [running the relay with Kaila], because I know that if I open it, she is going to close it, so I know that she is going to do a good job every time,” Jade said. “It’s amazing.”

Notre Dame’s freshman Barber duo almost never was, though, as the sisters nearly ended up at separate schools.

“We weren’t actually planning on coming to the same school. It just happened to work out that we both wanted to come here,” Kaila said.

While Kaila attributes her and her sister both ending up at Notre Dame to a happy coincidence, Jade tells the story slightly differently.

“The truth is, I didn’t want to go to school with [Kaila] and I was looking at a different school. Then I changed [to Notre Dame] last second. And she waited two days after I signed and then she signed to come with me. She totally followed me,” Jade said with a smile.

However it worked out, the Irish are happy to have both Barbers on their roster, as Kaila and Jade each bring immense talent to the track.

“Both [Kaila and Jade] were prized recruits coming out of the class of 2011, especially Kaila,” Irish assistant coach Alan Turner said. “We knew that both of them were extremely talented. As a coach, when I started working with them this fall, I realized that they had done some just outstanding stuff in high school with what I call a low track and field IQ. What you are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg with these two because they really don’t have strong sprint technique, their hurdle technique needs a lot of work — that’s an understatement to say a lot.”

Despite the imperfections in the Barbers’ technique, Turner predicts successful futures for both sisters.

“Once they finally put it all together and get it and get their technique together, both of those are All-Americans pretty easily,” he said.

Although Kaila and Jade will both be chasing the All-American distinction in their careers, the twins figure they will not lose any sisterly love over the competition.

“We found out that even though we do the same sport, we have our own strengths and weaknesses,” Jade said. “So it doesn’t really matter if she beats me in one event because I know that I can always beat her in another one. So it’s more of a teamwork thing now.”

Throughout their high school careers, the Barber sisters never once raced against each other. In Friday’s meet, that streak came to an end when Kaila and Jade each lined up for the 60-meter hurdles and 400-meter dash. Despite their occasional opposition within the lines of the track, the siblings remain very close off the track.

“We are best friends, so (we are) as close as it comes,” Kaila said.

Even their coaches find it easy to discern how close the sisters are.

“When they are together at practice, they are both right next to each other at practice,” Turner said. “They have both just been a pleasure to work with and they are easy to coach.”

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu