Howard University’s men’s swimming and diving team dominated the 2023 Northeast Conference (NEC) Championship, making history as the first all-Black swim team to win an NEC title. Last year, the team was runner-up.
The competition ran for five days at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio. The HBCU came out on top with a score of 928. Long Island University came in second with a 759 score.
In addition to the men’s team winning, some of HU’s male swimmers received major awards.
NEC awarded Howard’s Miles Simon the well-deserved Oustanding Swimmer award. Simon excelled during the 200-yeard individual meadly (IM), men’s 100-yard backstroke and men’s 200-yard backstroke.
Jordan Walker was awarded the men’s outstanding Diver award for excelling in the three-meter and one-meter diving.
HU’s diving coach Courtenay Miller received the men’s outstanding dive staff award, and Howard University’s swim staff was named men’s swim staff of the year.
“It’s the first conference tite for our men’s program in 34 years, and it feels amazing,” HU’s swimming and diving team coach, Nicholas Askew, told ABC News. “It just feels phenomenal to know that there’s this group of young men and young women who believed that it was possible, even when we were first getting started and all kinds of things were not going our way.”
Howard University is the sole HBCU with a standing swimming team and the only all-Black swim team in the country, including coaches and staff members.
HU’s recent victory is more than a trophy or plaque for the team’s head coach. It’s a step toward bridging the gap concerning racial disparities in swimming.
The “Black people can’t swim” trope has been around for ages, and research shows that the lack of basic swimming knowledge is impacting Black youth’s lives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Black children ages 10-14 years old drown in swimming pools at rates over seven times higher than white children.”
“We need, in my opinion, strong legislation that’s going to change the cycle that was broken to make sure that there’s more access and make sure that there’s more quality education for water safety,” Askew said.
Additionally, Askew wants to increase the percentage of Black competitive swimmers since out of the approximate 295,000 swimmers, about 1.5% of them are Black.
The HU alumnus highlighted the importance of support for HBCU athletic programs and their survival.
“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 to cut sports and in all of athletics,” Askew said. “We have to be very careful as to the support financially being in the stands, being able to send words of encouragement to the young men and women who are part of the program, as well as to administration.”
In addition to the NEC title, Howard’s swimming and diving team was the first all-black swim team to be featured on the Sports Illustrated cover.