Gonzalez sees bright future for Oxford swim


Madeline Crowe

Junior Noël Torma competes during the swim meet in Tupelo. The Chargers finished second behind Tupelo.

Grant Daniels, Sports Editor

After coming up short in a state championship chase last season, third-year Oxford swimming coach Robert Gonzalez would like nothing more than to improve on that and win a state championship. The Chargers finished 13th and the Lady Chargers finished seventh in the Class II 2016 State meet last season.

When Gonzalez took over the Charger swim team in 2015, there was work to be done. Gonzalez took over a sport that was thought of as just a three-month effort. Now, Gonzalez is bringing a change of culture to the team and forming this into a sturdy program.

“Culture change from the top down and understanding what is needed to be average, good, or great,” Gonzalez said. “We are getting closer and families are starting to now understand that this is a program.”

This season, the swimmers have come to respect the new attitude implemented by Gonzalez and have come to an understanding that a tougher practice schedule will better themselves for the season.

“We all take practices seriously and we practice six days a week for about 11 hours or so a week,” sophomore swimmer Vance Byars said. “[Gonzalez] keeps everyone focused during practices even if that means he has to be pretty hard on us.”

The Chargers are already a couple of swim meets into the season where they have traveled to Starkville and Tupelo, finishing second both times behind Tupelo. The Chargers will come back home for the Oxford invitational on Sept. 23, and then go back to Tupelo on Oct. 10. They will wrap up the season with the north half championship at Delta State and the state championship meet in Tupelo to end October.

“We have been competing with 6A schools for a while now in the state championships,” Byars said. “Our swim team is growing in size and dedication though thanks to Coach Gonzalez staying with this team for the time he has.”

Gonzalez is looking forward to the experienced leadership for the guys and girls with the guys having three senior leaders in Harrison Tann, Graham Norris, and Jeffrey Wang. The girls have three junior captains that are taking on that senior leadership role in Catherine Field, Kate Byars, and Lucy Chiniche.

“Overall, my highest priority is to see leadership take form. I don’t believe the captain has to be the best swimmer, but someone who makes the team better,” Gonzalez said. “However, I do believe that the top teams and championship caliber teams of every sport do see the combination of their best athlete be the team captain…it fuels everyone else.”

Gonzalez has reinstated a feeder program for the high school team, by working with young swimmers in middle school to form them into elite swimmers once they reach the high school level. Gonzalez brings this back from when former coach Rebecca van Oostendorp used it before retiring in 2013.

“This school won its titles in 2007, 2008 and 2010 by having a strong feeder system for years in advance,” Gonzalez said. “Two years ago, this approach had to be reestablished for our swim team. Now, we see a huge influx of kids working into the program that will strive for the next several years.”

The goal for this team, as would any team, is to win a state championship after coming just shy last season.

“Coach Gonzalez has pushed us in practice with both technique and conditioning,” sophomore swimmer Mary Marshall Waller said. “We have also started working with Coach [Jason] Wilfawn for our weight sessions which has been really beneficial and I’m excited to see the results.”

While Gonzalez expects big things for this season, he believes that the success is here to stay, giving Oxford swim an even brighter future.

“While I cannot wait for this season, I am truly ecstatic for next year and the future,” Gonzalez said.