Building A Legacy
GREENSBORO – Veteran head coach Shawn Hendrix will walk into the Greensboro Aquatic Center this weekend with 10 North Carolina A&T swimmers who will have their heads raised high and their sights on making history.
The Aggies swimming team opens the season in the Greensboro Aquatic Center Invitational a few miles away from A&T’s campus. When they arrive, as will be the case most of the 2014-15 season, they will be the only team representing a historically black college or university.
Ten years ago, it might not have had as much significance to Hendrix’s team. When the young ladies compete Friday and Saturday (Oct. 3 and 4, 9 a.m.) and throughout the season, it will mean everything.
“I’ve always told swimmers to appreciate everything you have because you never when it might go away,” said Hendrix, who is entering her 16th season as the leader of the Aggies program. “I think this group of young ladies really understands that. I think they are really grateful for the opportunity they have. They’re determined and dedicated because they realize they could be the last generation of black college swimmers. They realize the type of impact they can leave.”
Thirteen months ago, the A&T Athletics department announced it is discontinuing swimming in 2016. This could leave Howard, who sponsor men’s and women’s swimming, as the only black university to have a varsity swimming program.
Hendrix highlighted the importance of having African-Americans in the sport as she pulled out a swimsuit from a large box. As she felt on the material, she divulged the price. “Three hundred dollars,” she said.
Hendrix explained that in a country club sport such as swimming, it is important to have diversity in the sport and another sport African-Americans can aspire to. A&T is a good destination for African-American swimmers, according to Hendrix, but for now she knows her main job is to make sure her team is prepared.
“I really like this team because everybody knows the routine,” said Hendrix. “They know what we’re doing, they come ready to practice and they make practice a lot easier. It is like clockwork.”
A&T’s roster consists of only one senior but seven juniors who are complemented by two freshmen.
Junior Victoria Orr will serve as one of the Aggies co-captains along with senior Danielle Jackson. Orr swam her best time in the 200-yard individual medley at the last season’s GAC Invitational by recording a 2:23.18. Throughout the season, Orr competed in 13 different events during last season.
“We have a lot of diversity on this team,” said head coach Shawn Hendrix who is entering her 16th season at A&T. “At any time anybody can swim anything. I have a lot of flexibility.”
Hendrix said each swimmer has a specialty, but they are so educated on the sport that they are able to do a multitude of things.
Jackson’s specialty is the breaststroke where she finished first in the 100 breaststroke (1:12.66) at Campbell last season in January and first at Virginia Military Institute (1:11.28) last November.
While the Aggies may be the only team representing a black university at the GAC Invitational this weekend, they will not be the only North Carolina university represented. Fifteen scools representing Division I and Division II North Carolina institutions will participate.
“Each time we go out (to swim), we’re going to go out there with our heads up because we’re representing a great university, “said Hendrix. “If the program is dissolved, my swimmers are committed to leaving a legacy.”