COLUMBIA — This Friday is Kellie and Danielle Barbiea's birthday, and this year it will be special.
They grew up together, went to the same schools and competed on the same swim teams for all of their lives. But after graduating from high school in Springboro, Ohio, the fraternal twins decided they finally needed to take a break from one another in college.
Danielle Barbiea went to swim for Louisville during her freshman year while her sister joined the Missouri swimming and diving team.
"I really missed being with Kellie," Danielle Barbiea said. "I wanted to go to separate schools, but when I got there I realized that college is a lot different than what everyone tells you, and I just really needed my support system."
Now, they are both sophomores on the Missouri team, and they say they have grown to value their relationship even more. They said that after spending their birthday apart for the first time in their lives last year, they do not want to do that again in the future.
During her time at Louisville, Danielle Barbiea, who swims the sprint distances in the freestyle, struggled with an injury in her lower back and said she didn't have the best experience there. She made the decision to transfer to Missouri after seeing how much her sister loved the school and its swimming program.
"I came here and knew immediately that I wanted to go here," said Kellie Barbiea, who competes in the backstroke. "She had taken her trips to other colleges, and I tried to get her to look here, but at that time she was like, 'No Kellie, I’m not going to school with you,’ and here we are a year later, back together. It’s kind of funny how her opinions changed after a year.”
Kellie Barbiea said she is happy that she can be there for her sister now that they are on the same team.
“It’s a really unique bond that twins have, and just being together makes it better,” Kellie Barbiea said.
That bond also helps the Barbieas in their swimming. They said they train harder now because being on the same team pushes them to do better, and it helps them bring out the best in each other.
“As much as I want myself to do well, I want her to do well,” Kellie Barbiea said. “When she made her NCAA cut at our meet in December, I gave her a huge hug and it was like I accomplished something, even though I didn’t. I was just so happy and so excited.”
Danielle Barbiea admits that sometimes there is competition between the sisters in and out of the water.
“It’s nothing serious,” Danielle Barbiea said. “It’s just to give us a little push and a little more motivation.”
Although Danielle Barbiea plans on continuing to swim competitively after graduating and Kellie Barbiea wants to focus on becoming an accountant, they said they plan on staying close as they grow older.
“We’ve decided that when we grow old, we’re going to live in a house or a retirement home together,” the pair said in unison with a laugh.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.