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Oxford High’s swim team ready to take next step

Beginning his third season at the helm, Oxford head coach Robert Gonzalez is the most confident he has ever been about his team entering the season.

With experience on the boys side and young speed on the girls’ team, Oxford is poised to take a massive leap forward from a season ago.

At least that is Gonzalez’ expectations.

The Chargers begin the year on Thursday, competing in a meet in Starkville with the competition beginning around 4 p.m.

“Working with both the club program (Oxford Shockwave) and the high school swim program we’ve been able to see a lot of that growth that we had,” Gonzalez said. “We came in with a lot of focus on trying to develop our feeder program and now as that feeder system has strengthened the last couple of years, we’re seeing that kind of matriculate with the high school group. We’re looking forward to having a much faster program overall this year.”

Oxford is looking to improve off a season where they girls finished seventh in the Class II state swim meet with 27 points, 132 points behind winner Madison Central while the boys were a distant 13th with only eight points, 120 points behind state champion Tupelo.

The biggest thing Gonzalez is ready to see on Thursday is how his boys’ team looks in the pool. Anchored by senior captains Harrison Tann, Graham Norris and Jeffrey Wang, the boys have the potential to make major waves in the pool. One aspect that could see a major improvement are Gonzalez’s relay teams which are the races that help pick up major points.

“I think the boys’ team has seen a bigger jump forward,” Gonzalez said. “We have a couple kids right now who I think will be competing for some of the top finishes at this years’ state championship. …I think it’s a lot clearer for the boys. I think we have lot more depth and a lot more speed. I think our relay teams are going to be tremendously stronger.”

The girls are captained by juniors Kate Byars, Lucy Chiniche and Caki Field. They lose a key swimmer in Anna Dennis but her sister Julia — an eighth-grader — will be looked upon to help make up some of what they lost. Chiniche was second team All-State in the 100 freestyle a season ago and is expected to maintain that level of success if not improve upon it.

“I think overall the girls’ team was pretty solid last year,” Gonzalez said. “I think the core group of girls that we had last year, the expectation is that they’re all going to be back (at the state meet). They should all be able to qualify again. It’s just a matter of not just making it to state, but the expectation now is when they get there they’re supposed to perform at state championship (level).”