Sports Illustrated began coverage of the Howard University swim and dive team this past October at the start of the fall season. Under the leadership of Coach Nicholas Askew during his eighth season, the Howard swim and dive team has been dominating in the water and in the media.
The team, composed of talents from across the United States, the Caribbean, and Canada, have developed a name for themselves. They have broken school records and made history through their active wins each season.
The men’s team is currently 6-2, and the women’s team is 5-3 overall. Both teams are on track to become Northeast Conference champions.
The women’s team captain, senior Raychel Fauntroy, shared her excitement about the team being highlighted. “When Coach Nic asked me to be in the photo shoot for it, I was really shocked that they wanted to do an article and feature us. A lot of people don’t know Howard has a swim team let alone the only HBCU with one,” Fauntroy expressed.
“I’m very excited for the team to be highlighted in Sports Illustrated. I would’ve never thought we would be in there but we are and it warms my heart that now others can support and learn about our program while providing reassurance to those young black swimmers that it’s possible,” she continued.
To start February, Sports Illustrated published an exclusive segment on Howard University’s swim and dive team, highlighting their success in a white-dominated space. Just a few years ago, there were three other HBCUs with a swim program. However, as time has gone on, budgeting, as well as the presumed apathy for the sport, has diminished that number to just one.
Yet swimming has been proven to be important to the Howard culture. Home meets are often filled with excited students, faculty, and members of the community, as they cheer on the Bison to victory, with music uplifting the arena. Howard is also one of the only universities to have a swimming requirement for some of the graduates.
“This is about our mission as a university and the message we want to send as an HBCU…This isn’t a bunch of Black people in a pool; it’s young Black men and women succeeding in a sport that, for years, has shut them out of this experience,” Askew told Sports Illustrated.
“With Howard being the only swim team at an HBCU in the country, I feel like it motivates me to just always do my best. There are always younger athletes, young black athletes, young swimmers, who are always looking for a figure to look up to, and I feel like growing up for me I didn’t have that, you know?” Fauntroy agreed.
The team, like the culture, is unique in more ways than one. Fauntroy detailed what contributes to the squad’s unique qualities. “We love what we do. We chose a sport and stuck to it for around 10+ years, which most of us have. We love it so much…there are people on the team willing to teach people how to swim and water safety. We volunteer at swim clubs and teach them tips and tricks to be successful. I’m proud to say that I’ve been a part of the team and am very grateful to have had this experience. Howard University swim and dive has a familial bond and a team unlike any other.”
The Sports Illustrated segment can be found and read online.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew