Julia Dennis dominant, Oxford swim impressive at 2019 state meet
The Oxford High School swim team traveled to Tupelo this past weekend for the state meet, coming off one of the best swim regular seasons in program history.
They left with three individual medals, five relay medals and one individual state meet record.
From a team perspective, the Oxford girls finished third in the state, with the boys finishing fourth. But truly, the story came from OHS sophomore Julia Dennis.
Dennis medaled four times on Saturday, individually finishing third in the 200-yard freestyle and winning the 50-yard freestyle. Her 50-yard freestyle swim of 23.42 broke the Mississippi state meet record. In breaking the record, it was just the first time in state history that two girls swam a sub-24 second 50. Maddie Howell of Madison Central, who previously held the record, finished second with a 23.71.
“That was a really fun swim to watch. It was as exciting of a race as there was the entire meet,” head coach Robert Gonzalez said. “That was a monumental swim. When you’re on top of the mountain, it’s very difficult to overtake somebody. They don’t want to lose that position, especially as a senior. Julia had to go out there and compete for it. It was one heck of a swim.”
Howell, now a senior, originally broke the state record her sophomore year and then broke it again her junior year. Dennis’s victory on Saturday was the first time Howell had lost that 50-yard freestyle race in four years. Dennis’s time of 23.42 ranks third in the nation this season among 15-year-olds.
In addition to Dennis, two other Chargers saw the podium individually. Cole Oyler placed third in the 50-yard freestyle, the same event Dennis won, with a time of 25.32. Neil Cipkowski placed third in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 54.84.
“Cole is an extraordinarily talented young swimmer for our girls,” Gonzalez said. “To have two on the podium on the same event, that’s really hard to do. We had girls knocking each other off the podium, just because of how competitive it is within our program.”
Ellinor Maxwell, another Oxford swimmer, finished fifth in that same 50-yard freestyle event. With Cipkowski, the team had not even decided to swim him in the 100-yard butterfly until the day before the north half. A swimmer who had prior specialized in the freestyle, Gonzalez said he’s improved in butterfly tremendously over a quick span.
Five different Charger relay teams also medaled, bringing the total medal count up to seven for the weekend. The girls team took second in both the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay, finishing third in the 200-yard medley. The Boys team finished second in both the 200-yard medley and the 200-yard freestyle relays.
The meet concludes what has been one of the best seasons in program history, one that also recently saw Gonzalez named as the MAC Coach of the Year for swimming.
“It’s the most successful season since the 2010 team, on the girls side, who won the state championship. And it’s not even close,” Gonzalez said. “In our sport, it’s very definitive. It’s a very finite sport. All the numbers indicate the upward trajectory for Oxford swimming. We’re really pleased with everything this weekend.”
Lafayette also participated in the state meet over the weekend, sending 13 Commodores to state for the first time since 2007.
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