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13th annual swim meet marks black history

Capital East Natatorium to host swimmers from 26 cities

in 90 youth aquatic events

(Published February 8, 1999)

By ANTHONY EDWARDS

Staff Writer

More than 700 young swimmers, ages ranging from 5 to 18 years old, will compete in challenging swimming activities during the 13th Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet.

The two-day event Feb. 13-14 at Capital East Natatorium will display the talents of D.C. and national swimmers at a high-energy level.

The best swimmers from each of the cityís eight wards have trained diligently for months and await the chance to showcase their talents against the countryís top young swimmers. The meet, comprised of 90 events this year, is recognized by Swimming World magazine as the largest of its kind in the world. This event provides the opportunity for D.C.ís young swimmers to host their peers from 26 other cities in a series of competitive swimming events.

Sponsored by the D.C. Department of Recreation and Parks for the past 12 years, in partnership with United Black Inc., the meet has high expectations from everyone involved.

"This event is special because it brings together many different minorities that otherwise may not have the chance to compete against each other," said Michael Walker, head of aquatics at the recreation department.

Walker carefully points out that while this is true, "the meet features all races and yields positive results, because it helps them develop positive camaraderie."

Teams will travel from as far away as Houston, Texas, and from as nearby as suburban Maryland. Other participating cities include Detroit, Mich. (3 teams); New York (3 teams); North Carolina (2 teams); Richmond, Va. (2 teams); Baltimore, Md. (3 teams); Atlanta, Ga. (2 teams); New Castle, Del.; East Orange, N.J.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Tulsa, Okla.; Memphis, Tenn.; and South Euclid, Ohio. The team representing the District of Columbia will feature about 65 participants, under the direction of coach Roger McCory.

Walker credits the format of the big event to its success.

"During the Swim Meet, we donít have winners or losers," he said. "Itís all in good fun and healthy competition."

By doing that, he said, you cut out the fillers and illegal things that go on during placement competitions. "Stuff like that really eliminates the fun factor for the kids, and we want to keep it fun for them," he added. The aquatics director estimates about 3,800 people will turn out at this yearís meet.

As a part of the tradition of the swim meet, an important African-American figure is honored each year. This yearís honoree is Walter E. Washington, the Districtís first elected mayor. Past honorees have included The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Booker T. Washington, and Dorothy I. Height.

Capital East Natatorium is located on Capitol Hill at 635 North Carolina Ave. SE. Competition will run from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. For more information on the swim meet, call (202) 673-7660.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator