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Oxford looking for a stronger year in the pool

Oxford dipped their toe into the Class 6A pool last season and came away with a top-five finish at the state championships.

The Chargers want more in 2018.

The swimming season began on July 30 and practices will start in earnest for Oxford on Tuesday when classes resume. The Chargers know the expectations.

“We have a very strong belief and a goal of finishing in the top two this year at the state championship,” Oxford coach Robert Gonzalez said. “While Madison Central is kind of a world of their own, I think the gap between us and (Ocean Springs and Tupelo), that were ahead of us last year, I think those two teams are definitely in the realm of possibility to surpass.”

The Chargers finished third overall last year at the state meet with the girl’s team placing fourth. This year’s roster is skewed more girl-heavy, returning all the individual scorers. Most of the team has been able to find time to get in the water for individual work. With the depth of experience returning in Kate Byars and Lucy Chiniche, along with some newcomers, Oxford has a chance to be dominant on the girl’s side.

“We’re hoping, and expecting, to be able to add a couple more kids to our state girl’s team this year,” Gonzalez said. “Across the board our relay teams are going to be even stronger this year. You put those things together that means we should be able to have more swims at state, which means more scoring opportunities. I think it’s going to be a fun team to watch.”

Oxford is competing in four meets during the regular season, including their home meet on Sept. 11 at the Oxford City Pool. Gonzalez expects to see Madison Central’s girls, the reigning 2017 champions, several times before North Half at Delta State on Oct. 20 and the state meet at Tupelo on Oct. 27.

On the boy’s side, Tupelo is still the king of the pool, and Oxford will have to work on depth and replacing swimmers if they want to make a run at the Golden Wave.

When Gonzalez got to Oxford four years ago the middle school teams were sparse of boy’s on the rosters with the feeder programs being predominantly loaded with girls. Those issues have turned their heads for Oxford’s boy’s roster this season. The Chargers graduated five swimmers from last year’s team.

Returning for the Chargers is junior Will Carrington. Last year Carrington was a finalist in the 100-meter breaststroke at the state meet. Carrington is also expected to find a second race to final in and be a ‘sledgehammer’ for relays. Freshman Neil Cipkowski and Charles Byars are some younger swimmers Gonzalez expects to have good seasons.

“(Carrington) is a boy’s swimmer who’s just going to have to do that again (this year),” Gonzalez said. “Our boy’s team is high quality. Depth is going to be a concern for us, so we’re going to have really do our best to maximize those opportunities and see how some of our youngsters develop.”

Oxford starts their season on Sept. 2 with a meet at Tupelo.