Arie Arjeenah Muhammad makes waves in and out of FAMU’s swimming pool.
“When I got here, I knew I was going to make a name for myself and make a name for FAMU swimming,” Muhammad said.
“I knew I had all the essential ingredients.”
She holds school records in both the backstroke and freestyle events. A relentless competitor, Muhammad is one of the top three finishers in almost every event she swims. She has a ton of confidence and the drive to dismiss a popular misconception.
“I wanted to dispel the myths of African Americans not being able to swim,” Muhammad said.
The second of five children, Arie, 19, a theatre education student from Atlanta, began swimming at the age of four.
Muhammad’s family supported her love for swimming. Her parents make an effort to attend every home meet.
Muhammad’s brother, Sabir II, was the first African American to swim at Stanford University. He also tried out for the last two Olympic trials.
Muhammad swims the 50-meter freestyle and three 100-meter events.
Participating in all of these events may seem overwhelming to the average person, but Muhammad maintains that she doesn’t really feel the pain until all the events are over.
“Pain is temporary, pride is forever, so you have to try to do your best every time,” Muhammad said.
She also hints at how she is able to dominate the competition at meets.
“Before I swim, I zone out everything because I want to stay focused,” Muhammad said.
“I feed off of other people not being focused, and it helps me to work harder. I think it’s because I don’t like to lose. It’s the determination. I have the killer instinct in me.”
Muhammad balances her schoolwork and swimming; she has been able to maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average.
She is also a great motivator and according to Karl Riley II, a co-captains of the swim team, Muhammad’s commitment to success rubs off on the rest of the team.
“She is very dedicated, focused, talented and outgoing,” Riley said.
“She has always brought the team together to lighten up and work. Although swimming might seem like a job, she makes it seem like fun and it’s because she’s so real.”
Muhammad believes that her coach, Mark Howell is a great part of her, as well as the team’s, success. She feels he has gone out of his way to help them achieve their goals.
“He has brought a new vision to the program in terms of having us be prepared in every aspect – mentally, physically, spiritually,” Muhammad said.
“He is a coach who cares and he has brought a perfect touch to the swimming at FAMU.”
Howell said that Muhammad makes his job as a coach significantly easier.
“Arjeenah is an exceptional athlete,” Howell said.
“She has been a big part of our success this semester. Any time you have a new coach, people find it hard to adjust, but from day one she bought into it and has done everything 110 percent every time.
“She is definitely the epitome of FAMU’s women’s swimming.”
Melissa Bridgewater can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.