Team wins coastal championship

The Florida A&M University men’s swimming team was presented with numerous honors at the inaugural Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association Swimming Championship. The competition, which took place Feb. 21-23, was the first CCSA championship.

Mujahid El-Amin earned the honor of most outstanding swimmer among all of the schools within the championship. Teammate William McKnight shared the title of most outstanding diver with Virginia Military Institute’s Jeff Turner. First-year interim coach E. Newton Jackson also received the honor of most outstanding diving coach.

In preparation for the championship, the team tapered off. During this time the athletes focused on key areas of improvement. Jackson said a few changes had to be made.

“Because I came in January we had to modify the taper in order to be a little more effective,” he said. “We also did lighter workouts to become quicker.”

El-Amin, 21, a junior criminal justice student from Georgia, scored first place in three events. His time of 48.17 in the 100-yard butterfly earned him a spot in the NCAA Division One championship. El-Amin is very proud of his win and said he was determined.

“The first thing I did was thank God,” El-Amin said. “It took me a long time to understand it, but now I understand that everything does happen for a reason.”

El-Amin was among the swimming athletes that were affected by the program’s cut a few of years ago. He and other athletes were out of competition for more two years. It was a feeling El-Amin would rather forget. “I was down for a while,” he said. “When they brought back the program I was so motivated and determined to make people proud.” El-Amin said his main reason for choosing to swim at FAMU as opposed to a school with a well-known swimming program was that he wanted to put FAMU on the map.

McKnight, 19, a sophomore from Chicago, garnered a first and second place finish for the team. He collected 186.10 points in the 3-meter dive, and in the 1-meter dive 186.50 points. Before the championship McKnight worked on performing bigger dives.

“Dr. Jackson explained that it would be best for me to focus on bigger dives,” McKnight said. “I took his advice and worked on my technique and perfecting my dives. At the meet I was more confident and successful because of the tapering.”

McKnight has been swimming competitively for three years. He said one day while jumping off a diving board in a park near his Chicago home, someone urged him to become serious about the sport and introduced him to a coach. That first year he won the conference on the junior varsity level and became the black male in the city to do so. It is a memory that he treasures deeply.

“When I started swimming it was just something to keep me busy and put me through school,” he said. “Now I plan to go as far as it can take me.”

McKnight and El-Amin will be competing in the Last Chance Meet in Athens, Ga. this Saturday.