Scholars at historically Black colleges and universities throughout the country are trailblazing historic paths in the realm of sports. Saint Augustine’s University is the first HBCU to launch a women’s rowing team.
Black athletes have been historically underrepresented within the sport. The United States Rowing Association reported a mere 13 percent of rowers at all levels are athletes of color. Further research revealed in 2020, 2 percent of rowers in the NCAA were Black. Determined to change the narrative surrounding diversity within the sport, the Raleigh-based HBCU began laying the foundation for the women’s rowing team last year.
The team was approved and certified by the American Collegiate Rowing Association. The pioneering collective of five scholar-athletes has already participated in virtual competitions and will begin live water rowing races this fall.
Team member Mikahya Hill—a junior at Saint Augustine’s—told Row2k she’s excited to be part of history and hopes the team inspires other Black women and girls to get involved in the sport. “I wanted to be a part of that type of movement and change a predominantly male white sport [with] a little bit of melanin magic, to have Black girls doing it,” she shared. “I want to do this so we can inspire other Black girls at other schools who want to be rowers.”
The team—which is being coached by SAU School of Business, Management & Technology professor Dr. Mark Janas—has plans to expand by adding five athletes. “Rowing, like cycling, hasn’t traditionally been part of the HBCU experience, and we want to change that,” said Dr. Janas.
Howard University created its rowing team in the 60s and has been the only HBCU to have a rowing crew. The newly-formed team at Saint Augustine’s University stands on the shoulders of barrier-breaking Black women rowers like Anita DeFrantz.