GREENSBORO -- Nor rain nor sleet nor snow was enough to stop the North Carolina A&T swimming team from hosting Senior Night on Friday evening at Corbett Sports Center.
The inclement weather, which forced the university to close at noon, could not prevent senior Lauren Bowling from celebrating her career with her teammates and her family during the meet against Campbell. Even as the cold and ice chilled the night, all anyone could feel inside Corbett Sports Center was the warm affection amongst the A&T swimmers.
"It's been an emotional night, but it was exciting," said Bowling, who owns the school records in the 50 fly, 100 fly and 200 fly. "I was really anxious at first, but it went really well. I'm just really going to miss my teammates, and it's really surreal to think that this is the last time I'll be competing in this pool."
Bowling, surrounded by her parents, siblings and grandparents, was honored by her team following the Aggies 169-32 loss to Campbell on Friday evening. Her family made the journey from Augusta, Ga. to be there to celebrate Senior Night with her. Her mother arrived just in time to see her compete in her last home race, the 200 freestyle relay.
"They definitely tried to make it out tonight with all of the snow and ice-it was quite a trek, but they came out to support me," Bowling said.
After anchoring the final relay race of the meet, she stood behind the blocks with her family, wearing her hooded swimmer's jacket, cap and goggles and smiled as she heard the words of commendation from A&T head coach Shawn Hendrix, and the reflections from junior Aarin Miles, who spoke on behalf of the team.
Hendrix said: "She leads in a way that will never be replaced. The value of the work that she puts in at practice always shows up at race time. When you need an anchor, no matter what the situation is, Lauren has stepped up to the challenge."
Miles then gave Bowling a t-shirt that the team had signed as a gift, in addition to sending her off with some heartfelt words.
"Lauren's got the full package. Now she's embarking on a new adventure. She's headed out to the world as a working woman, and I'm going to miss her scaring me every day and making random pterodactyl noises," she said. "Swimming won't be the same without her, being at A&T won't be the same without her. I'm going to miss you, Lauren, and I know you'll be great no matter what you do."
Bowling closed out her final competition in Corbett Sports Center by swimming in a trio of events. She helped the Aggies clock in at 1:58.43 in the 200 medley for third place. She took fourth in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:03.49, and anchored the 200 free relay to help the Aggies take third place in 1:47.95.
The Aggies also had some strong finishes from their underclassmen. Freshman Kenya Dunn had the highest individual place on the night, clocking in at 26.30 for second place in the 50 free. Freshman Niya Ross placed third with a season-best 58.82 in the 100 free event.
The Aggies also had several fourth-place finishes on the night, including Ross in the 200 free, freshman Jade Hill in the 200 IM, junior Christian Hill in the 100 backstroke and 500 free and sophomore Danielle Jackson in the 100 breaststroke.
"We did better on some of our turns, and we applied some things under the water with underwater kicks. We've just got to pick up our speed being underneath the water," she said. "We were disciplined to stay under the water, but we weren't disciplined to keep the tempo high, so we'll work on that."
The Aggies (2-21, 0-5 CCSA) will travel west to take on UNC Asheville at 1 p.m., Saturday. The Aggies will compete in their final regular-season meet on Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Davidson Invitational.
With Senior Night behind her, Bowling knows that the Aggies will be working hard to prepare for the CCSA Championships. She'll still be looking to break a few more records before her career is completely finished.