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Simone Manuel Makes History and Inspires Black Swimmers

Simone Manuel Makes History and Inspires Black Swimmers

If you’re wondering who is dominating the world of swimming, you can stop.  Simone Manuel is breaking records all over the place, and she’s just getting started.  More importantly, she is blazing a trail for many young Black swimmers who want to be just like her.

The 2017 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Swimming Championships took place in Indianapolis, Indiana March 15 – 18.  Simone Manuel decided to spend the 4 days showing everyone that Black kids swim, and they swim very very fast.

On March 16, Simone Manuel set a new NCAA record in the 50 free.  Manuel swam a 21.17 besting the previous record of 21.21 held by Olivia Smoliga.  Not only was Manuel’s performance the fastest in NCAA history, it is the second fastest women’s time in swimming history.

Manuel later swam the 100 free faster than any woman, EVER, period, becoming the first woman to swim the 100 free in under 46 seconds with a 45.56.  Olivia Smoliga finished a distant second in 46.30.  Manuel wrapped up the meet by setting a new NCAA, American and U.S. Open record as part of the 800 free relay, and winning second as part of the 200 free relay.  She also took second in the 200 free (after Katie Ledecky and Mallory Comerford tied for first).

To recap; Simone Manuel made history in two of her individual events and one of her relays.  She dominated the NCAA championships and simultaneously showed a growing group of young Black swimmers that they can do it too.

More African Americans are entering the sport of competitive swimming.  Swim legend Jim Ellis, elite swimmers Sabir Muhammad and Reece Whitley, Olympians Maritza Correia, Cullen Jones, Lia Neal and now Simone Manuel changed the sport.  These determined athletes broke down barriers of exclusion and the next generation of Black swimmers can’t wait to follow their lead.

From left to right: Simone Manuel, Maritza McClendon, Lia Neal

From left to right: Simone Manuel, Maritza McClendon, Lia Neal

Young Black children are joining swim teams, qualifying for invitational meets, and breaking records.  Cason Wilburn from Virginia Beach VA is 16 years old and has earned AAAA times in 5 events and broken many state, league and meet records.  USA Swimming establishes time standards in order to help swimmers achieve goals and to give them an idea of how their times compare to other swimmers in their age group.  Time standards begin with a ‘B’ ranking and go all the way up to ‘AAAA.’ If a swimmer earns a ‘B’ time in an event they are likely swimming in the top 52% of their age group for that event, a ‘AAAA’ time means you are swimming in the top 1.09% of swimmers in that age group for that event.  Simply put – Cason’s super fast.

Absalom Bolling, of the Washington D.C. based D.C Wave swim team, qualified for the Eastern Zone Championship meet – a competition exclusively for the best swimmers in the Northeastern United States. Jazz Barry, Absalom’s teammate, swam in USA Swimming’s Eastern Zone sectionals – a competition whose winners typically progress to the U.S. Olympic trials.

Kris Lawson, 11, of the Washington DC area NCAP swim team is ranked 4th nationally in the 50 free.  His teammate, Rayven Custis, 11, is ranked 3rd nationally in the 50 free.  Robert Mangan, from Ithica High School’s Ithica Little Reds, is ranked 3rd in New York State for the 100 yard freestyle.  Kham Glass of Mississippi’s Sunkist swim team, was a member of the 400 medley relay team which set a new state record this March. 

These talented kids look up to Olympic swimmers like Simone Manuel, Lia Neal, Maritza Correia, Anthony Ervin and Cullen Jones.  They believe that they, too, can work hard and develop into elite and Olympic swimmers. They believe that the sport of swimming is ready to support and celebrate swimmers of all colors.  Black Kids Swim believes they’re right.

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