A record year

Isabel Sarty's swimming career keeps getting better

The accomplishments are piling up for third-year swimmer Isabel Sarty. 

Following the footsteps of her older sister, Sarty joined the Dalhousie University Tigers women’s swimming team in 2017. Since then, she’s twice been recognized as the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) swimmer of the year, set conference records, broken them again, and most recently, won a national medal. 

It’s a long list for the neuroscience student to keep track of. 

“When I look back at every single really special standout moment, it turns out that there’s a lot that are adding up,” says Sarty.  “They’re not really blurring together, but it’s kind of crazy when I go back and think about every single one and how it’s all happened in a short period of time. 

“Each experience is special and it definitely doesn’t get any less exciting.” 

Among this year’s standouts: an AUS record in the 100 metre freestyle race, with a time of 55.19 seconds. That beat her record time of 55.26 from November 2019 at the Kemp-Fry Invitational Meet. 

In February, the women’s Tigers swim team won the AUS championships for the 19th year in a row, helped by Sarty’s four gold medals from individual races and three relay wins. 

Sarty then capped off the season with a bronze medal in the 50 metre freestyle race at the U Sports Swimming Championships in Victoria. It’s the first national medal Dal’s women’s swimming program has seen since Phoebe Lenderyou won bronze in the 100 m backstroke in 2017. 

Sarty’s bronze medal took a while to sink in, she says.  

“It was pretty unbelievable and I didn’t really think that I was capable of doing that in the 50 free, so it was pretty nice.” 

What made it even more memorable was that the bronze medal was a three-way tie. Sarty swam a time of 26.47, an identical result as Rachel Rode of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and Samiha Mohsen from the University of Calgary Dinos. 

“It was a really weird feeling and I didn’t believe it,” says Sarty. “My friends have videos of me walking up the podium and still not really understanding if it’s real or not because that doesn’t happen.” A three-way tie in a race that short is extremely rare in swimming. 

In this image: Isabel Sarty about to dive.
At 55.19 seconds, Isabel Sarty set a record for the AUS 100 metre freestyle race. This beat her record time of 55.26 seconds from the November 2019 Kemp-Fry Invitational Meet. Photo by Ellery Platts

Personal bests  

Winning races and hitting specific times aren’t the main goals for Sarty. Her focus, she says, is on her individual improvement and attempts to reach new personal bests. It’s a strategy that’s worked for her so far. 

“As I keep getting personal bests, it happens to be that I get records,” she says. “It’s kind of nice to take the stress off and not think about any specific goals but just bettering myself.” 

Their training schedule, which includes being in the pool nine times a week, along with a couple of weight room sessions a week, becomes “tedious” at times, says Sarty. That can make it difficult to stay focused, but her teammates help to keep her on track. 

“If you’re having an off day, someone else is probably having an on day and they can motivate you and encourage you,” she says. 

The women’s team will look different next year: Sarty’s roommate, Lise Cinq-Mars, her sister, Julia Sarty and Claire Yurkovich have all used their five years of eligibility. The U Sports championships in Victoria, the last meet of the season, made their departure more real for Isabel Sarty. 

“It was pretty emotional, realizing that they’re leaving,” she says. “But then, I mean, I’m leaving in 12 months and it’s really sad to think that all these years are kind of coming to an end.” 

So far, among all her swimming accomplishments, Sarty is proudest of how she’s managed her time. Balancing the demanding schedules of school and swimming without getting too overwhelmed, she’s happy that she’s made it to third year without “any big mess ups.” 

Looking toward next season, she’s hoping to continue that.  

“I think I’ll stick to the same kind of strategy I’ve done the past couple years and keep it super open ended and just try to better myself and see where that ends up,” she says. 

More than that, the swimming phenom wants to be mindful of the time she has left as a Tiger, with whatever further accomplishments that will bring. 

“I really want to soak up every single experience and make sure I remember everything.” 

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