Wallace’s memory hangs over Stamm Invitational
Published 10:27 am Thursday, May 28, 2015
The passing of Afton Wallace rocked Vicksburg. For classmates, community members and teammates, her strength and courage resonates in the lives she touched.
Wallace started swimming with the Vicksburg Swim Association in the fourth grade and her favorite event was the 100-yard backstroke. Wallace was a victim of a rare, aggressive childhood bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma.
This weekend, her friends and teammates will pay tribute to her life and memory at the VSA’s Stamm Family Invitational meet at City Pool.
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On Sunday morning, swimmers will race in her favorite event, the 100-yard backstroke, in silence with the audience standing in observation. A lane will be left empty in her honor.
Wallace’s funeral service will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at City Auditorium. The meet, which usually runs well into the afternoon, will conclude for the day around noon so swimmers can attend the service.
VSA coach Mathew Mixon said it’s going to be a hard weekend for the organization as the hearts of everyone on the team will be heavy.
“In the true spirit of Afton we’re going to keep fighting, keep smiling and keep swimming,“ Mixon said.
While Wallace’s presence will hang over this year’s meet, its name pays tribute to some other longtime associates of the VSA. The Stamm family name — and its offshoots the Ebersole family — has become synonymous with swimming in the city. The name of the meet pays tribute to all of them.
“When I meet anyone around the south and I mention Vicksburg and swimming they say ‘Do you know such and such or Larry Stamm?’” Mixon said.
The Stamm Family Invitational is unique compared to other meets as it is held in an outdoor pool and runs both long (50-yard) and short (25-yard) course races. More teams are competing in the short course meet than the long course. A lot of meets will either run one or the other.
Mixon said outdoor pools are becoming limited, but calls it a help and a hindrance.
“Sometimes if the weather doesn’t corporate, we can’t swim, where as if you’re in a fully enclosed environment you can swim in bad weather,” he said.
The short course races are for competitors 12 years old and under. The short course is scheduled for Friday and will have 150 participants.
Saturday and Sunday events are long course, beginning with warm-ups at 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., respectively, and lasting until noon. Nearly 120 races for swimmers ages 6-20 will be held during the two days.
City Pool will be closed to the public this weekend during the meet.
Mixon looked at the initial entry reports from other teams and said his team with the most entries and swimmers attending the meet this year.
“I would really like to be the top team at the end of the day on Sunday,” Mixon said.
Mixon has several swimmers ranked first for the short course races on Friday.
“We have some swimmers that have a chance to win their events. We want to win the events we’re seeded first in,” Mixon said.