Axel Phillips was awarded a certificate for breaking another state record during swim practice Wednesday afternoon at the Frank P. Phillips Memorial YMCA. Coach Stephanie Gonzalez presented the certificate. Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff
November 7, 2019 2:19:59 PM
Axel Phillips reacted to setting his second state swimming record just as he did when he found out about his first.
When Swim Columbus coach Stephanie Gonzalez called the 7-year-old over during Wednesday afternoon's practice at the Frank P. Phillips Memorial YMCA, he seemed to know what was coming.
"Did I break another record?" Phillips asked Gonzalez. "I don't even care."
Gonzalez "surprised" her young swimmer with the news that, indeed, he'd set his second state record in six months, posting a time of 25.04 seconds in the 6-and-under division of the short course 25-meter backstroke on Oct. 13.
"He's just so relaxed about it," Gonzalez said. "More kids are super excited. He's just like, 'You know, whatever.'"
Gonzalez noted that the plaque commemorating Phillips' first record -- a time of 48.48 seconds in the short course 50-meter freestyle at the State Games of Mississippi in May in Meridian -- is hanging on his wall at home, so perhaps the young swimmer is just displaying some early humility.
Whatever the case, Phillips continues to help Swim Columbus make waves in the local scene.
He's the youngest member on a team of about 40 swimmers, Gonzalez said. Most swimmers are a little bit older, though Swim Columbus has a 17-year-old "senior" anchoring the team.
No matter the age, Gonzalez said, Columbus' swimmers are all close to each other.
"This team has become like a little miniature family," she said. "I call them my little ducklings. They're just my little babies right now."
Gonzalez, a former swimmer at Delta State University, said the diverse personalities she gets to see on the team are always enjoyable -- from Phillips' stoicism to the shy or "over-obnoxious" swimmers she often has to deal with.
She's now in her second year as coach of Swim Columbus, but Gonzalez originally didn't intend to apply for the job.
"I just didn't think I would have the patience for a coaching position," she said. "That's a lot of children for me, and I always said I never wanted to be a teacher."
The Caledonia graduate said she was skeptical when local parents asked her to step in. But she applied anyway, and the rest was history.
Gonzalez leads the team in daily practices -- afternoons during the week and Saturday mornings -- and schedules meets around once a month. Swim Columbus has two meets scheduled for November, including this weekend's Germantown Swim Team Thanksgiving Meet in the Memphis area.
The event will mark Phillips' first competition as a member of the 7-8 age group. He turned 7 years old on Halloween, his father Stuart Phillips said. That matches his brother Arthur, a fellow Columbus swimmer, for the time being -- the two Phillips children are 11 months apart in age.
It also means, for Axel Phillips, an increase in competition. There aren't very many swimmers competing in the 6-and-under group, but that won't be the case in the 7-8 group.
"It's gonna be a bigger age group for him," Gonzalez said. "I think he'll only get better with the extra competition."
If her prediction holds true, more records for Axel will soon be on their way.
Theo DeRosa reports on high school sports and Mississippi State softball for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.