WASHINGTON D.C., DC — An all-Black HBCU swim team made the digital cover of Sports Illustrated for the first time in the publication's history and three of the swimmers are from metro Atlanta.
Howard University is currently the only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) with an active swim team. This year, the student-athletes won their first conference title in 34 years. One of the swimmers, senior Miles Simon broke more than seven records over the course of the championships.
"Not a lot of HBCUs offer swim programs. Most Black kids, growing up– the only outlets for sports they have are basketball, football or track," Simon said.
Arion Solomon is also from the metro Atlanta area, hailing from Fairburn.
Junior and Marietta native Langston Weddington counts this as a major victory for all HBCUs.
"We get to set the standard and show that we can do this. We can have other HBCUs come out and be very successful just the way we're doing it," Weddington said.
At the Northeast Conference Championship in Ohio last month, the Bisons' surpassed four teams to win the title by a 169-point margin. There were five days of competition. Simon said his family back home in Atlanta were overjoyed, but this win didn't come easily.
"There have been some tough mornings, some late nights most definitely," Simon said. "There have been a couple of practices, where the pools have been really cold. And you still have to swim."
However, Simon said the hard work has paid off. He was recognized as the most outstanding swimmer during the finals. Plus, he was a 2021 U.S. Olympics trial qualifier.
"I did it during the COVID year. That was the year Howard canceled the swim season. So, that was a big accomplishment. And I feel like that's what led to all this momentum and what led us to a championship," Simon said.
Last year, the Bisons were a runner-up. Weddington said they came back stronger so they can set an example for other Black swimmers.
"I've had a few younger swimmers that are in high school reach out to me and ask about the team. And I'm just glad that we get to be role models," Weddington said.
With the championship and being featured on the cover, the team is making history on top of history.
"It's bigger than swimming. And it's inspiring change throughout the nation," Weddington said.