After a successful season, the Howard men’s swimming and diving team prepares to continue breaking barriers, excelling in a sport that lacks representation of Black athletes and is surrounded by the stereotype that Black people can’t swim.
Throughout the 2022-2023 season, the team took the sport by surprise with their abilities. Their performance led to both the men’s and women’s teams being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, making them the first all-Black collegiate swimming and diving team to grace the cover of the magazine.
Shortly following, the men’s team won the 2023 Northeast Conference Championship, marking the team’s first conference title in 34 years. Concluding the season with a 6-2 record, the past year was filled with opportunities and accolades.
“It truly was a season of destiny, and so many things came together in our favor,” said Nicholas Askew, head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving team, and the director of swimming and diving.
The recent abundance of media attention that the swimming and diving team has accumulated over the past season sparked a conversation about the lack of swim programs at HBCUs, showcasing that if Howard can have a high-achieving swimming and diving program, so can others.
Luke-Kennedy Thompson, a graduate nutritional science Master’s candidate from Nassau, Bahamas, who competes for Howard, explained the significance of their recent accomplishments for all HBCUs. “It shows that HBCUs can also have swimming and diving programs,” Thompson said.
The representation of Black athletes in swimming and diving has the potential to change the perspective on swimming in the Black community by inspiring people to try the activity.
Howard University swimmer Ty Triche, a sophomore biology major and chemistry minor from Humble, Texas, said, “I just hope people bring their kids to the pool because they see us swimming and excelling at it.”
Swimming is more than just a sport to these men; it’s a safe space and an opportunity to make an impact. The team has changed the view on the stigma and embraced the beauty that can come from stepping outside of one’s comfort zone.
“When you’re underwater, you’re at peace, you’re one with yourself,” said Triche.
“Swimming to me means opportunity and chance,” Askew said. “As a team, we always say, if you have a lane, you have a chance.”
With the season-opener, the Battle at The Burr, taking place on Oct. 7, the team is training hard and mentally preparing for the season to come. With last year’s performance, many may question their ability to compete at the same rate or accomplish as much as the prior season.
Askew addressed the outlook towards potential questions about their abilities, saying, “Coming off the success of last year, the big question is: Can we do it again? Can you keep this momentum going? I think this program is built for it.”
Copy edited by Whitney Meritus