GREENSBORO -- The North Carolina A&T swimming team is after history and legacy. As the 2013-14 season approaches, the Aggies have learned the swimming program will be discontinued in 2016.
They fully understand the historic implications of the athletics department’s decision. Howard and A&T are the last two historic black universities with swimming programs, which means by 2016 there could be no HBCU swimming programs. This leaves the A&T swimmers with the responsibility of leaving historians something to talk about.
"It’s fuel,” said A&T head coach Shawn Hendrix as she enters her 16th season at A&T. “They understand they may possibly be the last historically black swim team, and that’s an awesome responsibility. In saying that, in the pool, away from the pool, they want to be an example of what it takes to be a student-athlete and what it means to leave a legacy as an African American swimmer. It has fueled them to be more focused and supportive of each other.”
Hendrix and her swimmers are looking at consistency as the course of action to achieve the legacy they seek. Their consistency push may begin with trying to top a 2012-13 season in which program records kept falling. One of the Aggies top record setters, Lauren Bowling, completed her senior season last year, but Hendrix believes she has swimmers who can even go after Bowling’s times.
She brings back five talented sophomores and three redshirt freshman. As freshmen, Hendrix’s sophomores set numerous program records and seek more this season. Sophomore Victoria Orr set a new program record in the 400 individual medley last season at the Highlander Invitational, finishing in 5:12.57.
Sophomore Niya Ross also got in on the record breaking. She completed the 200 free in 2:03.40 at the Highlander Invitational to set a new mark. She also broke the 400 free record (3:47.31) and was a part of the record-breaking 800 free relay team that finished in 8:49.40.
Sophomores Jade Hill and Miranda Jacobs also had strong freshman seasons. Hill was also a part of the record setting 800 free relay team. She should be very competitive this season in the 200 breaststroke. Jacobs holds the school record in the 200 backstroke (2:23.09) and she was a part of the 400 free relay team that finished 10th at the CCSA Championships with a school-record time of 3:47.31. Sophomore Kenya Dunn was also a part of the 400 free relay team that set the new standard. Dunn should also give the Aggies a boost in the 200 freestyle.
Redshirt freshmen Aarica Carrington, Amare Hand-Solomon and Dominique Crable round what was a talented recruiting class for Hendrix in 2012. Both Carrington and Crable have excellent speed in the pool and should help out the Aggies in the sprints. Hand-Solomon was a four-time all-conference performer at Dover High School in Delaware.
“Consistency creates the opportunity to see the goal,” said Hendrix. “Consistency reminds the ladies of the goals they have set. Consistency reminds them of why we are doing this and why we have set these goals. Creating that flow of knowledge and purpose is the catalyst that gives each one of them the desire to meet their goals.”
Helping Hendrix lead a team filled with sophomores and freshmen will be five gifted seniors. Leading the way will be senior Erika Eisenman out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Eisenman is a model student-athlete, earning induction into the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society last year. In the pool, she was a part of the record-breaking 800 free relay team. She will also be vital in the 50 freestyle and the 200 medley relay team.
Senior Christian Hill is one of the Aggies’ stronger distance swimmers. She owns the school record in the 500 free (5:48.17) and the 1000 free (12:05.27), and she was another member of the record-setting 800 free relay team. Senior Aarin Miles met many of her goals last season. She set personal best in the 100 breaststroke (1:19.14), the 200 IM (2:53.29), the 50 free (29:47) and the 200 breast stroke (2:58.83).
Seniors Christian Hill and Courtney Jefferson only competed in the spring last season, but still made significant contributions. Hill is another excellent distances swimmer for the Aggies, while Jefferson is a versatile swimmer who could see action in the 50 free and the 500 free. Jefferson also competed in the 200 free and on the 400 free relay team.
Senior LaBraya Milton, a CCSA All-Academic team member, set personal best in the 50 free (29.06), 50 breaststroke (39.35), 100 breaststroke (1:29.87), and 200 breaststroke (3:25.97). Sarah Simmons will also have a tough time living up to the standards she set as a junior. She recorded personal best in the 200 free (2:55.76), the 50 backstroke (42.94) and the 100 fly (1:52.96).
Lone junior Danielle Jackson was the fourth member of the Aggies record-breaking 800 free relay team. Jackson was solid in the 100 backstroke, 100 free and 200 free.
The North Carolina A&T swim team will kick off the season Oct. 4 at the Greensboro Aquatic Club North Carolina Invitational.
“It’s a huge meet, very diverse,” said Hendrix, “The ACC, Big East and our conference, which is the Coastal Conference, will be there. It gives the girls a sample of all the conferences in the NCAA.”
Hendrix also stated that this meet is like an evaluation period to see where everybody is physically and mentally. The women will have an advantage at this meet since the Greensboro Aquatic Center is the team’s practice facility while the pool on campus is being remodeled.
Last season the women placed 11th at the Greensboro Aquatic Invitational. Dunn placed 26th in the 50 free with a time of 25.57, finishing behind athletes from Duke, N.C. State, Davidson and ECU. Dunn was also on the 200-yard freestyle relay that placed 23rd with a time of 1:45.
The team will compete in 14 swim meets this season with four of them taking place at A&T.
“They always perform really well at home,” said Hendrix. “The facility is being redone. It’s a comfort zone and having new stuff, this pool will be considered a fast pool.”
The swim team will compete in five meets before competing in the newly remodel Corbett Sports Center. Let the history making begin.