Joseph P Zemaitis
Head Coach (all sites)
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
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
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
Ioana Alexandra Popa
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
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
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
Helen Elizabeth Casseday
Age Group Coach - Moon Valley/DC Ranch
Mary E Smith
Age Group Coach - Glendale/Aviano
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
Trident groups, for which she is responsble for the direct
supervision. She coaches the white and black groups in
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 as
Riley E Burcheci
Age Group Coach - Glendale
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!
Age Group Coach - Chandler
Coach Maria Hass has more than 20 years experience coaching
swimmers from developmental to competitive levels in the
United States and overseas. She is a technical coach that invest
highly on technique with a long term vision of taking her swimmers
to the highest competitive level. She build the Ocotillo
Village site of Swim Neptune from 3 swimmers to 50 swimmers
and counting in her first year of coaching. Ocotillo Swim
Neptune has since expanded to 7 groups, 85 swimmers and several
Arizona State qualifiers and Far Wester qualifier. All these
accomplishments achieved single handedly by Coach Maria with no
need of a permanent assistant. Previously, she has allowed new
coaches to shadow her training and mentored entry level coaches.
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 quick progress of her swimmers.
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 is Arizona
Interscholastic Assn (AIA) Referee and Starter certified.
She was selected to the Philippine National Team, which
competed in Indonesia, Seoul Korea, Republic of China and Hong
Mark J Conte
Dive Neptune - Glendale
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
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.