SSU dives into swimming - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

SSU dives into swimming

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

There is movement in the pool at Savannah State, the first ripples of what could become a current at the school.

At a time when the few Historically Black Colleges and Universities that have swimming programs are dropping them, Savannah State has started a women's team. 

The team began practice last month, and they hope to compete for the first time next month.

"It's something that we think is not only needed, but it's something that these kids, who work so hard for their entire lives, we'd like to give them an opportunity to at least pursue that through college," said Joe Witt, who is coaching SSU's newest team.

The team will compete at the club level, but for its six athletes, it's an opportunity to return to a sport they enjoyed in high school or as members of independent swim teams.

"I love swimming, that's my passion," said SSU freshman Teri Bright, who was a swimmer at Windsor Forest High School. "I'm glad they finally got a swim team. I'm ready to compete. This is history in the making. I'm proud to be a part of it."

It will also be an honor for them to represent SSU.

"I just found out that there's only three HBCUs that have a swim team, but they're actually swim clubs," said SSU senior swimmer Alicia Alvarez. "For Savannah State to have it is a great stepping stone. It's like starting a legacy, and I can't wait."

The team grew out of Savannah State's Aqua Paws program, which offers swim lessons to children and prepares SSU students to be lifeguards and swim coaches.

It also got a boost from the Uunited States Olympic Committee, which saw the benefit of raising awareness of swimming in the African-American community.

"They came down and had a meeting with us here and they were trying to pledge some money," said Witt, who also coaches the Savannah Swim Team. "They're giving some swim suits, some equipment for the kids. So it's not only we're excited about it, it's the United States swimming community and the USOC behind it as well."

Funding will come from the intramural program rather than the university's athletics budget.

The first few strokes being made now at the SSU pool could be far-reaching.

"I hope it grows to where some of the young ladies in high school around Savannah say, 'Hey, Savannah State has a swim team, we're going to go swim for them,'  and eventually it does take off to where it's part of NCAA," said Witt.

"I'm glad they're taking the initiative to make a swim team," added Bright. "I hope a lot of other HBCUs do follow suit so I can compete against them and other schools. I look forward to that if that does happen."

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