E.A. Sports Today

Into the pool

Oxford’s Hilbun transitions from one state championship event to another

Trace Hilbun (L) and Colton Smith will lead Oxford's contingent into the state swimming sectionals this weekend.

Trace Hilbun (L) and Colton Smith will lead Oxford’s contingent into the state swimming sectionals this weekend.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Trace Hilbun is certainly a guy on the go.

Nine days ago he was running in the state high school cross country championship race. In four days he’ll be racing for a spot in the state swimming championships.

Throw in the work he’s done to score a 31 on the ACT and suffice to say it’s been a busy fall for the Oxford senior.

“It has been kind of tough,” Hilbun said. “I’ve kind of slowed down in both sports it seems, but I can quickly hop back into the swing of things.
“It’s never been easy on me, but every year I get back through it. It’s just a matter of time.”

Time now is a matter of days. The swimming sectionals for the central part of the state are Friday and Saturday at Birmingham’s CrossPlex.

Hilbun will swim in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and the 200 freestyle and 200 medley relays. The top four finishers in each event and those meeting the qualifying standard advance to the state meet at Auburn’s James E. Martin Aquatics Center Dec. 12-13.

Hilbun considers himself a swimmer who runs. He’s been swimming since the fourth grade and running for Oxford since the seventh. At the state cross country meet in Moulton, he was the Yellow Jackets’ third-best runner in a season-best 18:58.34 that put in somewhere in the middle of a field of 200 runners.

Since the start of the cross country season, he figures his swim times have slowed by a second or two. His best 50 free is 24.75 and his best 100 is 55.81.

“I’m just going to have to go hard this week to get back to where I was,” he said. “I’m pretty close. I think I can have a chance (to advance) if I put enough work in this week.”

In the beginning he tried to keep both sports separate, but they eventually merged. While running took up most of his focus in the fall, he did find some time to get in the pool – typically a couple morning practices a week before school started. He swam a meet in Auburn the day before the Calhoun County Cross Country Meet and swam in Atlanta the day after the State Championships.

“Trace has done a lot of things to make himself ready,” said Johnnie Pearson, a former Auburn swimmer who helps coach the county’s high school swimmers through the Anniston YMCA. “He’s got a lot going on out there and has shown a lot of dedication.”

Hilbun won’t be going to sectionals alone. Teammate Colton Smith also will swim in the 50 and 100 freestyle, while Tyler Swinford, Dylan Renfroe and Jordan Smith will join them in various combinations in three relays (200 free, 400 free and 200 medley).

Smith, a junior in only his second year swimming, has posted times in the 26s in the 50 and 58s in the 100.

“I think Colton has a chance,” Hilbun said. “He has improved a ton since I’ve been in cross country. I used to be a little faster than him, but he’s been passing me now.”

Alexandria’s Juliane Hill will swim in the 1A-5A girls 50 freestyle. It’s the most competitive event in the pool and one that suits her nature to a tee.

“She’s one of those kids who’s always asking how can I get better,” Pearson said. “I have to get her to stay out of the pool because she loves racing.”

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