Before the Senior Night swim meet that took place on Saturday, Jan. 28, senior fly/freestyle swimmer Reese Samuel gathered his teammates into a huddle and gave a heartfelt speech about his time at Howard and the love he has for his team.
“Being able to come here and work on the craft that I love with people that look like me and support me is a dream come true,” Samuel said. “I know it’s cliche, but I love you guys more than you could ever know.”
For Samuel and the 13 other seniors of the team, this meet was the culmination of their entire athletic careers. All the years of hard work, the wins, the losses, the triumphs, and hardships they faced at Howard would end here. For some of these athletes, it will be the final regular season meet of their careers. For others, it may be their final meet with Burr Gymnasium as their home turf.
The entire team had one sole focus: making this meet as memorable as possible for their outgoing seniors.
The coaching staff also shared that sentiment. “We want to be able to do (well) in a manner that celebrates the group that we have,” Nic Askew, director of swimming and diving, said before the meet. “This is their last ride. We have an extra adrenaline boost that comes in because we know that this is special for them.”
Senior breaststroke swimmer, Ileana Bocage, was feeling a flurry of emotions as the time approached to head to the pool.
“I’m excited but a little sad that it’s going to be my last (meet),” Bocage said. “But I’m looking forward to ending off the season on a strong note.”
Bocage, who is from Port-of-Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, was reflecting on the impact of the Howard swim team in her life. She expressed that being so far away from home was difficult, but being on the swim team helped her feel a sense of belonging and family away from home.
Luke-Kennedy Thompson, a senior mid-distance/IM swimmer, was also very grateful at the opportunity to experience this last meet with his team. Furthermore, with the conclusion of his academic and athletic career, Thompson conveyed a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment from his time at Howard.
“It’s definitely more of an emotional meet for me because seeing the legacy that we started and left behind is just awesome,” Thompson said. “Being able to do it with all of my teammates, especially my senior classmen, is truly a privilege and honor.
“I originally wanted to come to Howard because, you know, it is the Howard University,” Thompson said. “And I did achieve all of my academic goals and exceeded all of the athletic goals I had set for myself.”
The entire team was in a reflective mood, including the underclassmen. For them, the departure of the seniors who they had been studying and learning from was bittersweet. Joyful that their mentors are progressing through their lives, but sad that their friends would no longer be there with them.
Freshman freestyle swimmer Vaugh Peoples-Hobson spoke about the mentorship that he experienced both in and out of the pool from the senior class.
“The seniors be teaching us everything,” Peoples-Hobson said. “They give us advice on our strokes, they help us out whenever they see us out places. They’re there for everyone.”
The contribution that this large senior class made to the growth and development of the team’s underclassmen is the type of impact that creates a ripple effect. A ripple effect that could very well become not only their legacy, but also a new standard for the program going forward.
Samuel ended his pre-meet speech with words that had been echoed throughout the day. “One last ride. Make it special for us. Make it special for everybody…”
The Bison did just that. With a resounding 177-101 victory for the women and a 221-60 domination for the men, this Senior Night was nothing but a success. The results would bring their regular season records to 5-3 and 6-2, respectively.
Next up, the Bison have the NEC Tournament, which takes place Feb. 21-Feb. 25 in Geneva, Ohio.
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee