Swimming Against the Current: Howard University's Swim Team Makes History

Swimming Against the Current: Howard University's Swim Team Makes History

Howard University Swim and Dive Team's Historic Victory

Howard University's Swim and Dive Team made headlines in February 2023 when they won their first championship in 34 years. The only all-black college swim team took home the 2023 title of the Northeast Conference Men’s Swimming and Diving champions on Saturday in Geneva, Ohio, after finishing in second last year. This victory was an incredibly significant achievement for the team and their coach, Nicholas Askew.

It's important to recognize that the Howard University Swim and Dive Team's victory is not just about winning a championship. This triumph is a symbol of hope, resilience, and perseverance. For a team that has faced many challenges over the years, including financial constraints, lack of resources, and systemic racism in the sport, this victory is a testament to their hard work and dedication.


Segregation and Swimming Pools

In a previous post, Who Said Black People Can’t Swim, we discussed the complicated history Black Americans have  with swimming pools. During the Jim Crow era, discrimination and segregation were rampant, and many Black people were barred from accessing public swimming pools. Additionally, the drowning of Black children in public swimming pools was often ignored, and many Black communities lacked access to safe swimming areas. This legacy has had a lasting impact, with studies conducted by USA Swimming revealing that as many as 70% of Black people do not know how to swim, compared to only 40% of white people. Given this history of exclusion and discrimination, the fact that Howard University, an HBCU, has a Division 1 swimming team is a significant accomplishment.

The Leadership of Coach Nicholas Askew

Howard University's swim team has emerged as a highly competitive force in the sport. The team's success can be attributed to the leadership of Coach Nicholas Askew, who has been instrumental in their victories. Over the past few seasons, the team has broken numerous school records, including the 200-meter individual medley and the 50-meter freestyle. In addition, the team has had several swimmers qualify for the Olympics, including Miles Simon who broke the meet record in the 200-meter individual medley and was named the NEC Outstanding Swimmer. 

The team's success is not limited to their performance in the pool; they have also earned academic awards for their outstanding performance both in and out of the pool. Under Coach Askew's leadership, the team has achieved the highest Team GPA award at HU in two of the last three years, highlighting their commitment to academic excellence. Coach Askew himself has been recognized with various honors, including "Coach of the Week," "Coach of the Year," and "Professional of the Year," and has been featured in major publications such as Swim Swam Magazine and Swimming World Magazine for the legacy he is creating.

More Than Just a Win

The Howard University Swim and Dive Team's success is not just about winning championships; it's also about breaking barriers and inspiring future generations. As the first all-Black swim team featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the team has become a beacon of hope for young Black swimmers who may have thought that they didn't belong in the sport. By showing that it's possible to be a competitive swimmer and a member of an HBCU, the team is inspiring more Black students to consider swimming as a viable sport.

The team's historic win is also an excellent opportunity to recognize the importance of HBCUs and their athletic programs. As Coach Askew noted in an interview, "We talk about being the only HBCU [with a swim team], but that comes with a warning tag. We don’t want to be a program that’s cut because, even as a competitive program, NCAA swimming is the number one sport to cut." It's crucial that we support HBCU athletic programs financially, in the stands, and with words of encouragement to ensure that they continue to thrive.

In addition to their recent victory, the Howard University Swim and Dive Team has also made significant strides in promoting diversity and inclusion in the sport. In 2021, the team partnered with the USA Swimming Foundation's Make a Splash initiative to provide swim lessons to underserved communities. The team also hosts an annual HBCU Swim Meet, which brings together swimmers from HBCUs across the country to compete and connect with each other.

That's a wrap! The Howard University Swim and Dive Team has shown us that hard work and dedication can overcome any challenge. Let's keep the momentum going by supporting HBCU athletic programs and promoting diversity and inclusion in sports. Join us in celebrating this inspiring team by repping Howard University with  stylish HBCU apparel at HBCULeggings.com. Together, we can make a difference and inspire the next generation of swimmers!

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