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Coaches & Directors

We are here to support your needs. If your questions are related to workouts, meets, events, goal setting, and other swimming related needs, please contact your coach directly. For all questions related to administrative, such as dues, safety, or policy issues, please contact team administrator Helen Zemaitis at HelenZ@SwimNeptune.com

Coaching Staff

Joseph P Zemaitis

Head Coach (all sites)

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With sixteen years of competitive swimming experience and international accolades as a Professional Triathlete, Joe Zemaitis -at age 29- brings a lifetime of experience in competitive sports to his work with the Swim Neptune.  Joe’s coaching philosophy is rooted in the film belief that every child has a genius - a natural talent that, when recognized and unlocked, paves the way to a lifetime of success.  Knowing the vast array of critical life skills and lessons learned through sports participation, Joe is a strong proponent of the myriad benefits for every child.

In 2002, Joe launched Swim Neptune, a year-round competitive USA Swimming Club that has grown to include six locations across the Phoenix metro area and continues to nurture young swimmers in pursuit of their competitive goals.

In support of childhood drowning prevention and water safety initiatives, Joe created FAST - The Foundation for Aquatic Safety and Training in 2006.  A non-profit organization, based in Phoenix, Arizona, FAST is about Kids Saving Kids.  The mission of FAST is to leverage the talents, energy, and skills of competitive swimmers of all ages to spread the message of water safety and take an active role in teaching kids to swim.  Programs such as the FAST Talkers Educational Outreach and Water Safety for Refugees are examples of the FAST commitment to water safety and drowning prevention.

Beginning in 2006 Joe trained teams of young swimmers to complete the swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco.  After one swimmer achieved this goal in 2006 the program grew to over 75 athletes in 2007 and again in 2008.

In 1998 Joe set the 19 and under record at the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, the result of a goal he set when he was 12 years old.  He has completed a total of seven Ironman races, including four at the World Championships in Hawaii.  In 2003 Joe set an age group course record and was the Overall Amateur Champion at the  Ironmam Langkawi Malaysia.  His pro career highlights include a top 5 finished at the 2005 Long Course National Championships, selections to two USA World Championship Teams, a top 5 overall finish at the 2005 Ironman Langkawi Malaysia and competing as a professional in the 2005 Hawaii Ironman.  He was named the USA Triathlon 2005 Professional Rookie of the Year.  Joe won two Junior National Championships, is a six-time Triathlon All-American, and has represented the USA in ten World Championship events.  He competed in 13 countries and 27 states during his career as an amateur and professional triathlete.

Joe earned a full tuition academic scholarship to Lake Forest College where he graduated in 2002 Summa Cum Laude and Phie Beta Kappa.  He was a Rhodes Scholarship semi-finalist and recipient of the Graduating Scholar Athlete Award and the Senior Inderpendent Scholar Prize.  While at Lake Forest College Joe was a two-time captain of the Varsity Swim team and three-time captain of the Varsity Cross Country team, setting school records in both sports.  At Horizon High School in Phoenix, Arizona he lettered in swimming and cross country.

His first book, Joe’s Rule How Every Parent Can Help a Child Excel in Life- Through Sports, was published in 2007 and promises to be the first of a Joe’s Rules sires dedicated to yound people the world over and those who love and supoort them as they grow to become the leaders and the champions of tomorrow.

Ronald W Gercke

Coach - Moon Valley

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Ron Gercke is a coaching legend in Arizona.  With over fifty years of on-deck coaching experience, Coach Ron is one of the most accomplished coaches in the history of the state.  Ron was just the 25th swim coach in the US to achieve ASCA Level 5 certification, the highest available.  He holds 10 National Certificates of Excellence as one of the Top US Swimming Coaches, is a Four Time Olympic Coach and has been a coach for the Olympic Development Camp at the Olympic Training Center prior to the Sydney Olympics.

Coach Ron’s swimmers have gone on to succeed at the highest levels of the sport.  Ron has coached 5 Olympic Swimmers, 2 Pan-American Swimmers, and 2 NCAA Champions.  He has coached 15 different swimmers to National Age Group Records.  32 of his swimmers have achieved top 25 World times. 

Coach Ron is an expert at preparing kids to swim at the collegiate level.  He has coached over 200 swimmers who have received swimming scholarships to Division 1 and Division 2 schools including some of the top schools in the country.  A partial list: Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, USC, UCLA, Texas, SMA, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan, ASU, and U of A.  

Ioana Alexandra Popa

Coaching Staff

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Alex started swimming at 7 years old and competed in multiple national and international competitions. At the age of 14, Alex qualified for the Junior European Olympic Festival where she came in 7th place in the 200meters breaststroke.  Alex is multiple national champion and record holder for Romania in multiple strokes and distances.

In 2010 Alex received and accepted a full tuition athletic scholarship at the University of Alabama. Her outstanding athletic performance qualifies her as a member of the 2011 All-SEC Freshman Team (Southeastern Conference). The following year Alex received the Academic Honor Roll award for outstanding academic and athletic accomplishments.

In 2012 she transferred to Arizona State University where she placed 3rd at the PAC 12 Championship in 200yard breaststroke and broke the ASU school record in 200 Individual Medley, record which still stands today. Alex was two-time Team Captain of the Swimming and Diving team and made the Dean List in 2013 and 2014.

At the international level, one of the biggest athletic achievements was the participation in the World Championship in 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.

Alex graduated in May 2014 from ASU with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary studies in Psychology and Criminology. The following year she pursued a Master’s degree in Higher and Post-secondary Education Administration, which she completed in May 2015.

A series of unfortunate physical issues that didn’t allow her to continue as an athlete and the passion she has for the sport motivated Alex to chase a career as a swimming coach.

In August 2015, as the first coach and employee of Pitchfork Aquatics, Alex helped and supported the start and development of a new swim school and club team that has grown to over 120 swimmers. With a group of only 13 age group swimmers, Alex had 100% qualification at the 2016 Age Group LCM Championship with 10 top 3 finishes. 

Helen Elizabeth Casseday

Age Group Coach - Moon Valley/DC Ranch

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Coach Helen started swimming as an 8 and under in NJ for the North Plainfield YMCA.  She attended Skidmore College, a Division III school in NY, where she continued swimming and was team captain her senior year.  During college she got her SCUBA certification and WSI certifications and has always enjoyed teaching and coaching.  Helen started with Swim Neptune in 2011 and her 2 children swim for the team.  She is ASCA Level II Certified.

Mary E Smith

Age Group Coach - Glendale/Aviano

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Coach Mary came aboard the Swim Neptune staff in 2008.  She brings with her 30 years of experience in Aquatics, mostly in the field of swim lesson instruction.  Since she has come on board at the Glendale site she has been instrumental in the rapid growth of both the Strokers 1 and Strokers 2 groups, for which she is responsble for the direct supervision and coaching.

Coach Mary is a graduate of the University of Minnesota.  She is married and has two children, who we are very happy to have in our Swim Neptune Family.

Riley E Burcheci

Age Group Coach - Glendale

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Riley joined Swim Neptune first as an athlete during her time in high school. Riley swam through her high school career with Swim Neptune and then accepted a scholarship to Grand Canyon University. While in high school Riley competed in a variety of events, set school records, and qualified to swim in multiple sectional meets. Riley is currently completing a teaching degree through GCU and became a member of the staff in Glendale coaching primarily white and black groups!

Eric Waananen

Age Group Coach -Morenci

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I grew up swimming in Northern Virginia for Solotar Swim Team under some great coaches who were the reason I got into coaching.  I competed for Oakton High School, West Virginia University and George Mason University Patriots Masters team until my last competition in 2001. Finalist in Virginia state, Atlantic 10 Conference and US Master National swim meets specializing in 100 & 200 Fly. 

Started with Swim Neptune in 2008 after starting my year round coaching career in Northern Virginia for the Herndon Aquatic Club and Mason Makos. Coached 4 years at Langley High School in which we were the 3 x Women’s State Champions while being named 1997-98 Washington Post All-Met Coach of the Year before moving to Arizona in 2002.  Coached at Seton Catholic High School from 2002 to 2008 achieving Men’s Coach of the Year in 2007 by my peers. 

Moved to Morenci in 2013 to open the new community center and start a year round swim team.  We have fantastic results and looking forward in continued success.  I work with kids starting at 3 years old all the way up to adults who are learning to swim for the first time.  My love for the sport drives me to keep teaching and showing everyone how much fun swimming is.

Maria Hass

Age Group Coach - Chandler

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Coach Maria Hass has more than 20 years experience coaching swimmers at different levels in the United States and overseas. Her knowledge of swim instruction has advanced many learn-to-swim graduates to swim competitively and achieve great results. Maria’s love for and strong emphasis on technique and conditioning has resulted in many happy, satisfied families. Coach Maria developed several National Age Group qualifiers in the Philippines including one who qualified in the Olympics as the youngest Filipino Olympian in history at the age of 13. She has coached many AZ State Champions and Finalist.

 She was selected to the Philippine National Team, which competed in Indonesia, Seoul Korea, Republic of China and Hong Kong. 

 

Mark J Conte

Dive Neptune - Glendale

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Coach Mark joins the ranks of the Dive Neptune program in Glendale, and we are lucky to have him:

Upper New York State College Champion 1972; Deputy Swim/Dive Venue Director for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC); Past Chairman of Masters Diving for United States Diving, Inc.  for 6 years; Coached high school and age group divers and participated as a master diver since the mid 1970's. Currently the Diving Coach for the Liberty High School LIONS, and Substitute Teacher in the Peoria School District. Moved to Glendale, AZ from Redondo Beach, CA, and we, Dive Neptune, are thankful!

Helen M Zemaitis

Age Group Coach, Team Administrator

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Coach Helen has nearly 20 years experience as a swim instructor, novice swim coach, and team administrator. Helen also brings many years of experience as a swim parent and certified swim official to her work with the team. She began working with Swim Neptune in 2002. Coach Helen graduated from ASU with a BA in Political Science and a teaching credential.