Saint Augustine’s University Celebrates Its First HBCU Women’s Rowing Team In The Country

Saint Augustine’s University celebrates a historical win for current students and future generations to come. In its 155-year history, the University has formed the first HBCU women’s rowing team in the country, ABC 11 reports.

The pioneering team of five scholar-athletes, approved and certified by the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA), has already begun making a name for themselves. Since the summer of 2021, they have already participated in virtual competitions and are set to compete against other schools in live water competitions as early as Fall 2022.

“ACRA is proud to do whatever we can to support our sport’s growth and encourage SAU and other HBCUs to join our organization,” said ACRA president Cam Brown in a statement, according to row2k.

“We have been working with Dr. Janas and St. Augustine’s for over a year to help them where we can with contacts, resources, information, and equipment when possible—and it is exciting to see the progress they have made and see the sport continue to grow into areas that are underrepresented.”

Dr. Mark Janas, an SAU School of Business, Management & Technology professor, coaches the indoor training sessions and virtual competitions, and he played an instrumental part in launching the new club. He plans to expand the current team by adding five students.

“We’ve had rowing in mind since the inception of our virtual sports program and suite that opened in early 2021,” Janas said. “‘Virtual sports’ in our definition are distinct from ‘esports’ in that they are real sports that require the equivalent or similar skill and fitness as the ‘real sport’ counterpart, but they can be done virtually.”

Howard University sponsored a rowing program in the 1960s as the only HBCU to do so. The origins of the Howard team motivated SAU and Dr. Janas to introduce the first women’s team to the HBCU space.

“Rowing, like cycling, hasn’t traditionally been part of the HBCU experience, and we want to change that,” Janas added. “Howard is one of the elite HBCUs in the country, and we’ve definitely used their story to help the cause.”

Team member Mikahya Hill—a junior at Saint Augustine’s— is not only excited for her team to improve with each race but to inspire other Black girls who want to row.

“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, according to NewsOne. “I want to do this so we can inspire other Black girls at other schools who want to be rowers.”

The SAU women’s rowing team is accepting donations here.