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Howard’s Swimming and Diving Team To Host Biggest HBCU Swim Meet in History

Photo Courtesy of @huswimanddive via Instagram.

The Howard University Swimming and Diving team will host the Georgetown Hoyas on Oct. 1 in a dual meet dubbed the Battle at Burr. This is set to be the biggest HBCU swim meet in history and will take place during Howard’s Hall of Fame weekend.

This meet will have a one-of-a-kind environment with promises of excitement and activity within the student body. During this weekend, Howard swimming head coach Nicholas Askew will be inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Askew, a 2000 Howard graduate, was a standout in swimming and tennis as a student of the university. During his run at Howard, Askew was a six-time conference champion, and the only athlete in school history to win Most Valuable Player for two sports in the same season. Askew, a well-deserving inductee, will be using the weekend to spotlight his team.

“Everyday Coach Askew reminds us that we’ve come a long way in every aspect of the game,” sophomore swimmer Darin Johnson said. “[With] this meet being a huge milestone in our program, it’s our time to shine and show the world that an HBCU swim team can dominate the competition. It’s a great moment to see our coach make that milestone in his career because he truly deserves it. Coach has done so much for our team in the last year and the dedication he has for us is truly remarkable.”

The Battle at Burr will be a grand showcase of HBCU culture. Howard University is currently the only historically black university with a swim team after North Carolina A&T discontinued their program in 2016. As a result, the only HBCU swim meets have been hosted at Burr Gymnasium, attracting around 500 spectators per meet. This meet, however, is expected to see a record turnout of 2,000 spectators. For the fans in attendance, there will be a live DJ, celebrity appearances, a VIP Lounge and entertainment between races. In a SwimSwam News article, Coach Askew spoke about the importance of an atmosphere like this at a home meet.

“I can’t speak enough to the electricity that’s in this environment,” Askew said. “[Just] how special it is given the fact that we’re the only HBCU and how the numbers do not favor the culture. Such a large number of Black or brown people don’t swim or have limited swimming ability. To be able to pack the stands, to have them there the entire time for a swim meet cheering loudly and engaged in the fan experience, you’re not going to find anywhere else like it.”

However, the atmosphere is not to take away from the main event as the Bison will be taking on the reigning Big East Champion Georgetown Hoyas. Georgetown head coach Jack Leavitt played a considerable role in making events like this possible. Following a contest held at Burr in 2021, Leavitt insisted that all future matchups be hosted by Howard University. This request was due to Howard’s unique electric atmosphere that can not be replicated anywhere else in collegiate swimming. With the Battle at Burr expected to have a bigger turnout than the previously mentioned contest, the Bison have a chance to showcase their metal against one of the nation’s elite programs. The collection of alumni, students and faculty hope to encourage the team to outstanding performances with school spirit.

“Last year our team had a historic national championship run,” Johnson said. “Though we came up short, we’re coming back 10 times stronger than last year with endless determination. With that being said, the team and I are determined to beat Georgetown after years of them being on top. We work day in and day out to prove to the swimming world that we earned our platform just as anyone else. When we compete, our goal is to go above and beyond and represent our brand to the fullest extent.”

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While there have been promises of surprise guest appearances, some big names have already been confirmed to attend. USA swimming managing director Joel Shinofield and Olympic bronze medalist Elizabeth Beisel will be present. Olympic silver medalist and Team USA’s first Black female swimmer Maritza McClendon will be in attendance, serving as Howard’s honorary assistant coach during the meet. Former Howard swimmer Camille Chatoor will join Askew in the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame induction class.

Tickets for this event have sold out, but there are still ways to follow the action. At the Burr Gymnasium, there will be a live broadcast of the meet in “The Deep End” on the jumbotron. The meet will also be broadcasted via NEC Frontrow, available to watch online.

Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett


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