The Howard Bison made waves as the first all-Black collegiate swimming team featured in Sports Illustrated.
The Howard University swim and dive team first came under the sports magazine’s spotlight at the beginning of the fall season in October, breaking barriers and debunking the long-held myth that Black people can’t swim.
Too much #BlackExcellence to handle! The @HUSwimming is on the cover of Sports Illustrated! They’re the only All-Black college swim team in the nation! Big shoutout to Howard University and their athletes — let's show the world we’re ready to take on ANY challenge! pic.twitter.com/V62oTg89uT
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) February 4, 2023
Howard is the lone historically Black college or university in the sport of swimming. With each active season victory, the team has broken records and added new chapters to the chronicles of the school’s distinguished past.
According to The Hilltop, the team has players representing many countries in the Americas and the Caribbean, each of whom has achieved considerable success in their own right. Overall, the women’s team is 5-3, while the men’s team is 6-2. Furthermore, each team has a good shot at taking the Northeast Conference crown.
The Howard University swim team is the nation’s ONLY historically Black school with a swim program…..
and they’re on the cusp of winning their FIRST conference championship in 34 years!!!! 🏊🏽♀️🏊🏽
— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) February 15, 2023
Women’s team captain and Howard senior Raychel Fauntroy grew up in Miami and has swum competitively for the past decade. The recognition of the group greatly encouraged her and made her extremely happy.
We caught up with Fauntroy to get her thoughts on her team’s high-profile mention of the authoritative publication. She provided a positive and inspiring message when we asked her if she had any advice for anyone trying to accomplish a goal with the odds stacked against them.
“No matter the color of your skin, where you come from, gender, etc., you can always do something great,” Fauntroy told Blavity. “Don’t let anyone change your mind, and don’t let that one negative thought, one bad race/performance, or one negative person discourage you. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it. Change the narrative and set the standard.”
To start the month of February, a unique Sports Illustrated article highlighting Howard University’s swim and dive team’s outstanding achievements in a predominantly white sport featured a mention of the HBCU, according to Detour. Nic Askew, the team’s formidable coach, and his group are featured on the issue’s cover.
Within the last few years, three additional HBCUs have offered swimming programs. Sadly, that number has since decreased to one due to budget restrictions and general disinterest in the sport.
“This is about our mission as a university and the message we want to send as an HBCU…,” Askew told Sports Illustrated. “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.”
As a young Black athlete, Fauntroy had few role models to admire.
“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 told Blavity.
Fauntroy outlined the team’s distinctive characteristics.
“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,” she detailed. 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.”