May 13, 2009
From The Triangle Tribune
By Bonitta Best

National swim meet making a splash

RALEIGH - The largest black swimming event in Wake County history is days away.

The Seventh Annual National Black Heritage Championship Swim Meet is May 23-24 at the Triangle Aquatics Center in Cary.

Thirty teams and 760 predominately black swimmers, not including family, relatives and friends, will visit the Triangle for the two-day competition. The event is sponsored by the N.C. Aquablazers, an AAU swim team consisting of minority swimmers from North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois and Florida.

The meet, the largest one ever, is projected to bring $500,000 to the local economy, according to the Greater Raleigh Visitors & Convention Bureau.

"I am so excited with the response we're getting," Kathy Cooper, meet director and a member of the Aquablazers, said. "I was hoping to get 200 swimmers with the economy the way it is; I am amazed by the outpouring."

2008 Olympic Gold Medalist and former NC State swimmer Cullen Jones will join 2004 Olympian Maritza Correia during the two-day competition that will feature the Aquablazers, the YMCA of the Triangle, the Fayetteville Flying Fish and the Winston-Salem YMCA.

Jones and Correia are regulars at the Heritage swim meets - both have attended the last three at various cities in the U.S. Correia will sign autographs and host three mini-swim clinics Saturday afternoon. Jones will do the same on Sunday, plus race 14 lottery participants in two 50-meter freestyles exhibitions.

Correia is the first African-American to win an Olympic medal in swimming. She will also keynote the community breakfast May 22 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Embassy Suites Cary. Local minority swimming pioneers' Weston Butler, Yvonne Holley, Lee Lewis, Tanya Moore-Boone and Ruth Palmer will be honored.

Proceeds from the breakfast will benefit the Aquablazers' mission of lowering the drowning statistics for minorities.

According to a USA Swimming survey, over 60 percent of black children can't swim. Black children also drown at almost three times the national rate.

Still, black people do swim. Minority swim meets date back to 1997 with the former Chris Silva Meet in Atlanta.

Minority parents who grew tired of seeing their child as the only black on AAU swim teams formed the Aquablazers. "We wanted them to not only see others who looked like them but who could push them in competition," Cooper said. "But the meet is open to everyone, not just black swimmers."

Tickets to the community breakfast are $10. For more information about the meet or the breakfast or sponsorships, contact Cooper at 522-9275 or visit