Champs from Miss., La., to clash at City Pool

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 1, 2001

[06/01/01] A challenge by a Vicksburg native to the state’s best swim team has helped make this weekend’s sixth annual River City Classic not only the biggest yet, it’s made it a family reunion of sorts.

Nearly 550 swimmers from 14 teams in Mississippi and Louisiana have registered for the three-day meet at City Pool, including more than 100 from Vicksburg native Carter Stamm’s New Orleans-based Elmwood Sharks team and 90 from Jackson’s Sunkist team, which includes Stamm’s sister, assistant coach Laurie Stamm-Collins.

The Vicksburg Swim Association’s team, the Coke Racers which also has several of the Stamms nieces and nephews on the squad will have about 40 swimmers in the meet, which began Friday at noon with younger swimmers in short-course events and continues Saturday and Sunday at 8:15 a.m. with long-course events.

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The meet will wrap up around 5 p.m. each day, and City Pool will be closed to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the meet is free.

Stamm, whose team has won the last two River City Classics and also won the Louisiana state championship last year, challenged Jackson’s Sunkist squad the Mississippi champs to a showdown this weekend. At stake are bragging rights and a $1,000 cash prize to the winning team. The second-place team will win $250, and third place will receive $100.

“If I came, I wanted them to have some good competition,” Stamm said. “(Sunkist is) probably the primo team in Mississippi. They have the best squad.”

Sunkist has competed in the meet before, but this is the first time the team will come with its best swimmers. Sunkist coach Jeff Vernace who is friends with Stamm said a big meet in Alabama usually held the week after Vicksburg’s meet has kept the full squad from competing at City Pool before.

This year, however, Vernace decided to bring his best swimmers to the River City Classic, including 16-year-old J.P. Jones, who is ranked in the top 16 in the nation in several distance events.

“We were just trying to work something out where we get to see some different competition,” Vernace said.

“This is probably our hardest training session of the season, and it’s a good chance for me to see where their times are.”

Also expected to bring a strong team is City of Shreveport, which has finished second to Elmwood in each of the last two years. The Shreveport, Elmwood and Sunkist teams will account for nearly half of the swimmers at the meet.

“I believe we have one of the better teams around,” Stamm said. “But if you have quality, like Sunkist and Shreveport have, that can beat quantity any day. Quality always wins over quantity.”

The high level of competition is helping make the River City Classic one of the more attractive meets on the summer swim schedule, coaches said.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s the beginning of summertime and you have the meet for the little kids,” Vernace said.

“They do a really good job of running the meet.”