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Oxford swim season off to hot start after OHS Invitational

Oxford City Pool was a sort of controlled chaos on Thursday evening as nearly 300 swimmers from 16 pools gathered for the OHS invitational, the only home event the team will swim in 2019.

After a series of lightning delays slowed things down, cutting all relay events from the day’s schedule, Oxford walked away with an impressive performance for the early year. The boys finished second in the field of 16, pushing their overall record on the early season to 25-2, whereas the girls won the event, pushing their overall season record to 27-0.

“I was ecstatic with our team performance yesterday. I was stunned to see some of our best times at this meet,” head coach Robert Gonzalez said. “Our pool probably isn’t the fastest pool in the state. So for us to get out there on a hot day, despite a weather delay, and in heavy training mode, and have our swimmers perform as well as they did. This meet will feed our confidence when we hit our taper in about a month.”

Sophomore Julia Dennis has really stood out for the Chargers through two meets this year. After winning first place in two individual events and participating in two winning relay teams a week ago, Dennis didn’t slow down at all this week, winning both the 100- and 200-yard freestyle races by a handful of seconds each, an eternity in the swimming world.

On the girls side, Ellinor Maxwell was another name that stood out on Thursday. Gonzalez described her winning performance in the 200-yard individual medley as his “favorite event of the meet.” Maxwell, winning with a 2:22.58, cut two whole seconds off her time from last week.

For the Oxford boys, Will Carrington finished second in both the 100-yard butterfly and breaststroke. Neil Cipkowski won the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 51.39, finishing second in the 200-yard freestyle.

“I think the kids, overall, are way ahead of last year’s pace. This team is faster,” Gonzalez said. “The evidence is all there in the numbers. It’s a completely objective sport and we are way ahead of last year’s pace, right now. It’s really exciting to see these kids performing in the water.”

At this point in the schedule, with the bodies of the swimmers relatively broken down, it’s sort of remarkable the team had any personal best times. The way swim training schedules are set up, sort of similar to track, are for them to peak later in the season. These times really should be achieved a month or two from now, something that only helps build confidence moving forward.

Oxford’s is also a young team, made up of primarily of seventh- and eighth-graders. The more those young kids get comfortable with the race-day schedule and atmosphere, the better they’ll be moving forward.

Due to the weather delays on Thursday, all relay events were unfortunately cut from the schedule. This hurts smaller teams, sure. But it also hurts a team like Oxford, who typically expects to get a good bit of points off their impressive relay teams. They’ll have to wait until their races at Tupelo next week to get another look at those units.

Ultimately, it was an Invitational that Oxford hosted remarkably well, despite the adverse conditions beyond their control. With the aid of many volunteers and parents, as well as Oxford City Pool, the team was able to raise over $3,000 from the event, which operates as their primary season fundraiser.