Swimming Team gets new Coach, Recruits

With second year coach Mark Howell at the helm, the swimming and diving teams are streaming into an area filled with changes and positive developments.

Charles Heller, the new assistant coach, joined the team in March to replace former assistant Andre Bailey. Heller has been coaching for 10 years, spending time as a high school coach and as the coach of the Tallahassee Aquatic Club.

“He saw potential in our team even before he got hired,” Howell said. “It’s a good thing when your coach is on the same page as you for the ambitions for your team.”

Heller has set expectations on what he wishes the team to achieve this year.

“Once they get with the training mentality, they are going to become better swimmers,” Heller said. “Hopefully they will all have a best time [at a meet] this season . I firmly believe that the team can do it.”

The coaching staff has also recruited 12 students for this season, bringing the team to 32 members.

Last season, the women’s team did not have sprint freestyles; therefore Dena Person, a junior transfer from Miami-Dade College and Nyisha Green-Washington, a freshman from Highland Mills, NY, were recruited for the job.

Other universities also sought many of the team’s recruits. Brian Goldson, an 18-year-old freshman from Westbury, NY chose FAMU over Howard and Hampton and has not regretted his decision to come here.
“I pretty much figured that I would swim in college as I swam all my life,” Goldson said. “I came here for that purpose, as well as knowing that [FAMU] has one of the best business schools.”

Howell believes that these recruits will make a big difference and expects most of them will be ready for competition by the first meet.

“We needed more depth in all four strokes,” Howell said. “They will definitely plug holes in relays and open events. There will be an immediate positive impact on freestyle relays and medleys.”

Team members have merged with the recruits very well. In fact, many have been motivated because several recruits are posting faster times than the veterans. The new class has increased the sense of competition on the team and proved that the FAMU swimming and diving program can only get better.

Apart from the new recruits and assistant coach, the change in conferences will also be a new step for the team. As the Southern States Conference dissolved, most teams are now transferring over to the Northeastern Conference.

Howell feels great about the upcoming season. His main goal is to finish in the top three spots at the conference in February and to be the best HBCU in the country.

Melissa Bridgewater can be reached at bridgewater_mj@hotmail.com.