Oxford’s Robert Gonzalez a National Swimming Coach of the Year finalist

Published 11:40 am Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Oxford High School’s Robert Gonzalez is among eight to be named a finalist for the National High School Athletics Coaches Association (NHSACA) National Swimming Coach of the Year award.

After turning a dormant Oxford swim program into one that sent 17 athletes to the Mississippi state championship in 2019, recognition for the man heading the program has gone beyond just the state, into the national realm.

“This is a program award. This is a school award. Everyone’s put in the work that’s needed to build a program. We may not be where we want to be yet, but we keep making strides forward every year,” Gonzalez said. “The only way that this occurs is if these swimmers and their parents are totally buying into what we have here at our disposal. Our athletes are buying into the goals and vision that we have within the swimming community here in Oxford.”

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The regional nominee of the award, Gonzalez joins seven other coaches from around the country, one of whom will take home the national award. Mike Ahrens (Bettendorf, Iowa), Talia Butery (Fargo North High School, N.D.), Leigh Ann Fetter-Witt (Lincoln Southwest High School, Neb.), Jeff Huxley (Alma, Mich.), Jeff Mace (Edina High School, Minn.), Shawna Morgan (Lander Valley High School, Wyo.) and Fran Pfeiffer (Lauralton Hall, Conn.) are the other six coaches nominated.

All nominated coaches will meet in July in Omaha, Neb. where the winners will be decided.

When Gonzalez took over the Oxford swimming program five years ago, he inherited a program that wasn’t used to much success. In that period of time, he’s transformed the concept of Oxford Swim from a relative afterthought to one of the most competitive teams in the state.

Sending 17 swimmers to state in 2019, they left with three individual medals, five relay medals and one individual state meet record set by sophomore Julia Dennis. The girls finished third as a team in the state meet, while the boys finished fourth. Despite the recent success and the accolades that continue to mount, Gonzalez said he still thinks of them as a building program.

“There’s a purpose to everything we’re doing. But seeing the results is what became the ultimate buy-in factor. Being a team that wasn’t really a competitive program to where we are now, this is another thing we can look at as a spring board to take it to the next level,” Gonzalez said. “Just to be able to expose their successes is a big thing. You can say all you want and try to sell whatever you want to, but if there are no results, it won’t be a selling factor. these kids are putting in so much hard work and what they’re producing in their performance in competition is a product of that work.”