Black Athletic Excellence Was On Display At HBCU Showcase In NYC

Nike exec Roderick Blaylock highlights the importance of HBCUs at the “Fastest Track in the World.”

On Saturday (Jan. 13) some of the greatest athletes in collegiate sports descended upon New York City at the Armory Foundation’s second annual HBCU at the Nike Track & Field Center at The Armory. Held at what is regarded as "The Fastest Track in the World,” the highly-anticipated event was sponsored by KPMG, streamed live on Peacock, and featured more than 25 premier HBCU track and field programs from across the country.

Additionally, the audience was treated to riveting performances by the Norfolk State University men’s step team, the Howard University marching band, the Brooklyn United Music and Arts Program marching band, and NYC alumni of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. 

Roderick Blaylock, Vice President and General Manager NYC, NIKE, shared the vision of the brand partnering with HBCUs for the event.

“As an alum of Howard University, the HBCU showcase is giving a major platform for HBCU athletes to be a part of this incredible event,” Blaylock said. “I wish I could have been a part of something like this back in the day.”

“I think if you go back with HBCU student-athletes, whether it be football, basketball, or track and field, they opened the door and inspired someone else, so I think for us at Nike, we just want to make sure everybody has an opportunity to be part of this. No matter where you are,” Blaylock continued. “That's really important to our vision.”

Blaylock also explained the importance of Nike being a part of the showcase and having New York City as its host.

“This part of New York is so underserved, but it's so diverse in culture and everyday energy. Being here and bringing the track to the center of New York and Washington Heights is important for the Armory because they serve this population every day. People come from all over the world,” Blaylock added. “From the Nike perspective, we invest in communities, we invest in things like HBCUs, we invest in getting people opportunities, and so this is a perfect partnership.”

One of the key aspects of the showcase was a college admissions fair for NYC high school students. Admissions representatives get to engage with prospective students who gained significant insight into what an HBCU education could mean for them.

Zakia Haywood, HBCU Showcase Meet Director and Director of College Track and Field at Nike at the Armory expressed her excitement about the showcase and the educational opportunities of the event.

“We are thrilled that so many schools with over 2700 scholar-athletes have joined us here today for the HBCU showcase. This is an event like no other because it's not simply a track and field meet. This is about an hour to meet to engage, network, and an opportunity to showcase all the talents and the brilliance of our athletes,” Haywood said. “Also, for the coaches and admissions officers to meet with high school students in New York City because the northeast is a powerhouse of athletes with Type A personalities and analytical minds. We want to get them in the hands of these coaches.”

Elena Richards, Chief Diversity Equity & Inclusion Officer at KPMG, and Traci Brodnax, Communications Director at KPMG, spoke about the company’s commitment to the event and their ongoing efforts to empower students in the region.

“Supporting the second HBCU Showcase event here at the Armory also helps the talent pipeline and track and field is a big way to do that,” Richards said. “I get emotional because I love seeing them bask in the opportunity to be their personal best, and we want to help them reach whatever future they want.”

“In addition to the HBCU showcase, KPMG has a really big relationship with local students with our high school and college readiness programs,” Broadnax said.

As for the results of the meet, the Norfolk State Men's track team opened the 2023-24 indoor campaign with a dominating performance. In total, the Spartans won six individual victories from Kai Cole (200m), Raphael Kitur (Mile, 3,000 meters), Jonathan Richardson (60 mH), Isaac Haywood (Triple Jump), and William Richardson (Weight Throw). Cole, who also placed second in the 60-meter dash, made history with a time of 6.65 seconds matching a school record set by Tim Montgomery in 1996.

On the women’s side, the Hampton University Pirates won the top spot with a score of 115, displaying athletic prowess. Kayla Spencer and Dejah Grant came in first and second place in the 800m while Jordan Mozie won first place in the mile.

For the full results of the day, visit here.

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