Barbara Nwaba: A Great Example

Barbara Nwaba: A Great Example

By Kathleen Matthew
UCSB Athletics Communications Intern

No one represents the Gaucho blue and gold better than Barbara Nwaba.  As a fifth year senior heptathlete for UCSB Track and Field she finds herself ranked No. 1 in NCAA and holds the school record for the heptathlon.

"I'm definitely going to miss wearing that uniform," Nwaba said, as she envisions the road ahead of her including the 2012 Olympic trails.

Nwaba was born and raised in Los Angeles, but her parents came to the United States from Nigeria, where most of her extended family still lives.

"We grew up in a very disciplined household," Nwaba explained. "My parents are really strict, but anything I wanted to do they were all about putting your all into it."

Nwaba's competitive spirit led her to love running at a young age, but it wasn't until high school that she actually competed on a team. Running came naturally to her and she later discovered that her grandfather was a serious track athlete in Nigeria.

"It was really inspiring to know that and know where I got it from," Nwaba said.


Prior to arriving at UCSB, Nwaba was already striving to find a way to reach her end goal – the Olympics.

"What can you do to get me to the Olympics?" she so anxiously asked as she was being recruited in her senior year of high school. "I knew that was always my dream."

Nwaba arrived at UCSB as a hurdler primarily, but her incredible journey began as soon as her coaches realized she had the strength and natural ability for the heptathlon. Coming in as a freshman Nwaba didn't even know what the heptathlon was. The two-day, seven event competition quickly became her strong suit.

Nwaba has the aggressive drive and tremendous mental strength to battle through the 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200 meters the first day and the long jump, javelin and 800 meters the second day.

How does she feel about training and competing in seven different events?

"It's really fun! It keeps it entertaining, it keeps it fresh. That's why I couldn't do just one event, I would probably get really bored," Nwaba laughed.

Her preparation for the heptathlon is crucial.

"It starts when I wake up," she said. "I'll watch a Youtube video to laugh or listen to gospel music, which cheers me up. I used to switch my socks up or miss-match my earrings. Anything to get my mind off track and just have fun with it."

Along with Nwaba's outstanding individual accomplishments, including a UCSB record-breaking score in the heptathlon and multiple Big West honors, she is a dedicated teammate.            

UCSB track and field Associate Head Coach Josh Priester attributes her "quiet leadership" as a valuable trait that encourages and motivates the entire team.

"She leads by example and by training hard every day," Priester said. "That's the biggest impact she has on the team, the example she sets on the track every day."

Nwaba is grateful for the support she has at UCSB, especially from her teammates.           

"I definitely hold the team on my shoulders sometimes," she said. "That kind of helps me, it puts a little bit of pressure on me to do well."

Nwaba is proud of what she has already achieved as she represents UCSB on a national level, and is thrilled to continue her career competing in the Olympic trials.

"It's such an accomplishment for me these past five years and just to know how far I've come," she said.

As her senior year approaches an end, Nwaba hopes to be remembered as "just being a beast." Nwaba has already made a name for herself and her persistent drive will continue to lead her towards her dream.