Uncharted waters: Saint Augustine's University launches first HBCU women's rowing team

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- When Mikahya Hill was a high schooler, her school's rowing team was mostly comprised of white boys. Now, a student at Saint Augustine's University, Hill captains the first-ever women's rowing team at a Historically Black College and University.

"This is a predominantly male, white sport, and to have a bunch of lovely, melanated ladies taking over, it's really inspirational," Hill said. "I want other women at other HBCUs to come out and join and let's change the face of rowing."

The team has only been practicing for a few months but said they hope the pathway it is paving becomes well-traveled.

"We've made history," said starboard rower Dee Vance. "We made a statement, and not just our community - for HBCUs, but for black women at every university and around the world. They could achieve anything that they want."

According to the NCAA, only about 2% of female rowers in the NCAA were black in 2021. Black student-athletes have not accounted for more than 2% of female rowers since 2015 when they accounted for 3%.

"I feel as though we as a team, we've opened that door and we're hoping to just grow and have other teams and other women and men walking through this door that we broke down and we opened up," Vance said. "It almost hurts to hear those numbers, but we're stepping in the right direction."

Though the team said it enjoys the recognition of being the first HBCU women's rowing team, they wish this barrier had already been broken.

"It's nice laying the groundwork and for other women to build on top of us, but I don't think that we should have been the first, I feel like this is something that should have been," Hill said.

Hill said she hopes the team can expand in the future and that other HBCUs form rowing teams of their own.

"I would like to be in competition with people that look like me," Hill said. "I feel like that would make it more authentic for us."
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