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Our Coaching Staff

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 one of the coaches. For all questions related to administrative, such as dues, safety, or policy issues, please contact David Tait, our Club Director.

Coaching Staff

David Tait

Club Director

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RIO Salado Swim Club is owned and operated by David Tait. David was an accomplished athlete in the sport of swimming. In his career he was a 3-time state champion and former state record holder, a Junior National Champion, a Senior National qualifier, and a competitor at the 2000 US Olympic Trials. David coached a number of high school athletes to the State, Junior National, and National levels and took one athlete to the 2008 Olympic Trails. He has over 19 years of experience teaching children, teenagers, and adults how to swim. His real passion is helping kids learn how to swim and enjoy a sport that has brought him a lifetime of rewarding experiences. David's expertise has benefited children and adults of all ages and all levels of aquatic participation.

Together with David’s professionally trained staff, the RIO Salado Swim Club prides itself on developing the "total athlete."  They believe each swimmer has an opportunity to use the sport to learn the skills necessary for a successful life, while having fun and swimming fast at the same time.  Physical, mental, emotional, and social traits are all aspects of their philosophy that help to develop each athlete at every level in swimming to their greatest potential.  They strive to ensure that swimming maintains a bright and respectable future in the world of sports through the development of new training techniques in order to achieve greater and greater levels of human potential.

Mike Laubacher

Head Coach

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Mike Laubacher has been the Head Senior Coach at RIO since September 2009. During his tenure RIO has grown from 60 swimmers to a team of over 140 swimmers. RIO has placed in the top 5 in AZ State meets 5 times since his inauguarl season and gone from a national ranking of 690 to currently 121 out of over 2,000 teams. During his four years at the helm, RIO has produced multiple state champions, state records, NW Sectional finalists and has also seen a resurgence in the Senior program with eyes on multiple Junior National qualifiers.

Mike coached at Irish Aquatics from 2005-2009 as the Head Coach of the satellite location. During his tenure, Irish Aquatics swimming achieved multiple Age Group state champions, Junior National qualifiers, two US Open, and one Senior National qualifier. He was also the volunteer assistant for the Notre Dame Women's Swim Team from 2006-2008 when the Irish won two Big East Championships, achieved 10 NCAA berths, and qualified 11 athletes for the 2008 Olympic Trials.  A 2003 graduate of Ohio University, he completed his master’s degree in Communication from The Ohio State University in September of 2005.

While completing his master’s degree, Mike was a Graduate Assistant and gave lectures on public speaking and persuasion. His classes finished with the first, third, and fourth highest test averages for the department. His thesis was advertising and marketing strategies for minorities in the U.S.

After graduating from Massillon High School in 1999, Mike attended and swam at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He specialized in the 100 and 200 backstroke, and the 100 butterfly and freestyle. While in college, he also served as Head Coach for Brookside Country Club swim team, in the summers of 1999-2002. While at Brookside, the club enjoyed their best ever swim team record. After graduating, Mike returned to his alma mater in Massillon to become the volunteer assistant coach under his mentor, Coach Dave Rotthoff.

Mike was also active in the University of Texas and University of Notre Dame swimming programs, working the program's summer camps in 2004-2005, and 2006-2008, respectively. He is a fan of Pearl Jam and connoisseur of good music.

Melissa Ripley

Head Age Group Coach

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Melissa Belote was born on October 16, 1956 in Washington D.C. and grew up in Springfield, Virginia. She has been called one of America's greatest swimmers. Melissa is the middle child of Florence and Buddy Belote. She has two sisters, Barbara and Jenny.
 
Melissa first appeared on the national swimming scene at the age of 12 when she qualified for her first United States National Championship.
 
In 1972, Melissa won both the 100 and 200 meter Backstroke at the United States Olympic Trials and set a world record in the 200 meter Backstroke.
 
Later that year at the Summer Games in Munich, Germany, Melissa led the women's American Swim Team as she won three Gold Medals. She placed first in the 100 meter Backstroke, setting an Olympic and American record. She finished first in the 200 meter Backstroke setting a World, Olympic, and American record. She also swam the lead off leg on the World, Olympic, and American record setting 400 Medley Relay team.
 
In 1973, Melissa continued her dominance when she won the 200 meter Backstroke at the World Championships.
 
In 1976, Melissa made her second Olympic team, which competed in Montreal, Canada. Melissa finished fifth in the 200 meter Backstroke, setting a new American record.
 
From 1970 to 1979, Melissa won 8 AAU Individual National Championships and was a 16 time AAU All-American. She also won 6 individual National Collegiate Swimming Championships and led her college team, Arizona State University to two National Championships. Melissa was a four-year All-American at Arizona State University.
 
In 1972 and 1973, Melissa was the runner-up for the Sullivan Award, the highest amateur award recognized in the United States. In 1977, she won the Broderick Award as the Outstanding Women's Collegiate Swimmer in America.
 
Melissa is in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the Washington Hall of Stars, the Arizona State University Athletic Hall of Fame, and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. In 1999 Melissa was selected to the United States Swimming “Team of the Century,” as well as, Sports Illustrated top 50 athletes from the state of Virginia, and the Arizona Republic Newspapers top 100 Athletes of Arizona.
 
Melissa has been involved with swimming, either as a swimmer or coach, since 1965 when she started competing as an 8 year old at her community swim club, Springfield Swim & Racquet Club. In addition to her coaching responsibilities at RIO, Melissa is the Head Swim Coach at McClintock High School.
 
Melissa is married to Richard A. Ripley and they have two children, Rachel Alexandra (22) and Erik Alexander (20). Rachel recently graduated from the University of Missouri where she swam for 4 years. Erik is a Junior swimming at Towson Univeristy in Maryland.
 
Melissa Belote Ripley
33 year’s coaching age group swimming
Four time All-American for Arizona State University
Six time National Collegiate Champion for Arizona State University
Olympian (1972 & 1976)
Three-time Olympic Gold Medalist (World, Olympic and American Record holder)
World Champion 1973 – 200 m Backstroke
Sullivan Award Runner-up (1972 & 1973) - Top Amature Athlete in American
Broderick Award for Outstanding Women's Collegiate Swimmer (1977)
Fiesta Bowl All-American (1977)
Arizona Republic Newspaper - Women Athlete of the Year (1977 & 1978)
Inducted into the Arizona State University Athletic Hall of Fame (1981)
Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (1983)
Inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame (1989)
Arizona Republic 100 Greatest Arizona Athletes
Sports Illustrated Top 50 Virginia Athletes
USA Swimming - Female 200 Backstroker of the Century
2008 Arizona Swimming Age Group Coach of the Year

Bob Chen

Competitive Team Assistant Coach

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Bob Chen began swimming competitively at the age of 11, and within 6 months, achieved his first National Reportable Top 16 (NRT) in the 200 yd breaststroke. He continued competing until his senior year of high school; throughout his brief career he achieved NRT’s in multiple age groups and events, while qualifying for US Sectionals, NCSA Junior Nationals, and Far Westerns. He is a former national record holder as a member of the PC Swimming's 11-12 boys 400 yd medley relay, and also the current meet record holder in the 13-14 200 yd I.M. at RIO’s own Lost Dutchman Invitational. A 2006 Scholastic All-American and 2008 graduate of Fremont, CA’s Irvington High School, Bob is currently the Director of Pre-Comp Operations for RIO, as well as the Head Coach at the Hamilton site. During his time at RIO, he has overseen the growth of the Pre-Comp program to over 500 swimmers spanning 4 locations.

Upon graduating high school, Bob attended San Jose State University for 1 year as a political science and philosophy double major before moving to Chandler, AZ. During his short stay at SJSU, Bob was a part of the university’s Associated Student Body, working in the public relations division.

Starting at the age of 14, Bob worked as an swim instructor during the summer for SwimAmerica. By the end of his junior year in high school, he was also coaching the summer league team at the Ohlone College campus. Bob began his tenure with RIO in March of 2010, as an assistant pre-competitive coach at the Hamilton site before taking over the location that June.

In August 2013, Bob began his first year as Head Swim & Dive Coach at Basha High. During his inaugural season, the Men's Varsity Team went undefeated (7-0) in dual meets, and placed 6th overall at the Arizona H.S. State Championships. He also had two graduating seniors from the Women's Varsity Team sign National Letters of Intent to continue their careers in college.

Felissa Dixon

Competitive Team Assistant Coach

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Felissa Dixon grew up in Arizona.  Upon graduating from high school, she attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO and specialized in Breaststroke and IM. She set the team record in the 200 yd Fly and was part of record breaking 200 yd and 400 yd medley relays.
 
She graduated from Colorado College with a bachelor's degree in math and spent the next year working at CC in the math department, when she also began coaching at a nearby high school.
 
After realizing her love of teaching, Felissa went back to school to get her Masters of Arts in Education and began teaching high school math in Colorado Springs.  During this time, she continued coaching high school and also began working with the Cheyenne Mountain Aquatics.
 
After coaching the varsity girls team in a different school district for four years, Felissa was given the opportunity to begin the first high school team in her current school district.  In her first year, she was nominated as Colorado State High School 4A Girls Swim Coach of the Year.
 
Felissa has now been back in Arizona for four years, coaching and teaching math at McClintock High School in Tempe.  
 
She just finished her 12th high school season of coaching and has been coaching for RIO since March 2012.

Anthony Pedersen

Competitive Team Assistant Coach

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Anthony Pedersen has been involved with the sport of swimming for over 27 years and is excited to bring his knowledge and love of the sport to RIO. He swam competitively for several club teams in the Northern Virginia area and also swam for the University of Mary Washington. At the age of 14 he took his first coaching job for his summer league team, Lake Ridge Lancers, and fell in love. During his time at the University of Mary Washington and continuing for long after, Anthony coached at his alma mater, Hylton High School. While at Hylton, a school with a diverse range of talent, Anthony led his team to two District championships. This was the first time in school history that the girl’s team brought home back to back championships. 

Once Anthony had a taste for coaching he knew he wanted to expand his horizons. He did so when given the opportunity to coach the Senior Group under Olympian Jeremy Linn for Quantice Devil Dolphins. He was then given the opportunity to run and grow his own facility while coaching with Patriot Swim Club, which later joined with Curl-Burke Swim Club (now National Capital Swim Club) where he coached from 2007 to 2011. He started with 15 swimmers ranging in age from 8 to 13 and grew the program to over 300 swimmers. While with Curl-Burke, Anthony produced several LSC Champions, Sectional Qualifiers, Junior National Qualifiers and National Top 10 ranked swimmers. Many of his swimmers have gone on to continue their swimming careers in college. 

In the fall of 2011 Anthony decided he wanted to coach full-time - which is not something easy to do in the DC area - so he made the move to Arizona and joined Swim Neptune as the Head Site Coach/Director of the East Valley. When he joined Swim Neptune the Chandler location had less than 15 swimmers and the program expanded to have more than 100 at two different East Valley locations. Since arriving he has had swimmers compete at several levels from LSC Championships to Paralypmic Swimming Trials 2012. Anthony also had the pleasure of coaching the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) #1 world ranked swimmer in the 200m Back in 2013. He is also an assistant coach with Desert Vista High School and where the girl's swimming and diving team won the 2013 Tempe City Meet and Arizona High School State Championship. 

Anthony is now entering his first season (2014) with RIO. He is excited about the opportunity to develop and grow his new program and cannot wait to see what adventures are in front of him. He prides himself in not just being a successful swim coach who develops great swimmers, but a swim coach that helps produce well rounded individuals. He believes each swimmer is their own individual and he treats them that way. Every swimmer has their own plan, goals and experiences and he uses this knowledge of each swimmer to help them along their way.  

Anthony is married to Therese Cooper-Pedersen and they are expecting their first child, Cooper, in late spring. Even though Therese thinks Cooper should give football (her favorite sport to watch) a try, Anthony feels he might be a bit safer following in his footsteps as a swimmer.  In his free time Anthony enjoys catching up on all things sports and supports his hometown team the Washington Redskins. 

Additionally, Anthony has recently taken up writing a blog “Thoughts from Your Average Swim Coach” about various topics in the swimming world.

Patrick Tolson

Gilbert Jr. High Pool Head Coach

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Born and raised right here in the East Valley,  Patrick Tolson has been involved with swimming since birth.  He began swimming rec leagues for the City of Mesa at age 5.  He continued with his swimming career at Red Mountain High School in Mesa, where he was a middle distance and sprint freestyler.  In his 2 years with the Mountain Lions, he qualified and competed at the Arizona H.S. State Championships in the 100 and 200 freestyle.  After high school, Patrick attended Northern Arizona University. Whilst in college, he was a volunteer coach for the Flagstaff Snow Sharks.  During his breaks from college at NAU, Patrick coached rec league swimming for the City of Mesa during the summers.  He was the Assistant Coach, and eventually the Head Coach, of two teams during his 9 years with the City of Mesa.

Upon graduation from NAU in 2001 with a degree in Elementary Education, Patrick went on to teach 10 years of Elementary School in Gilbert, primarily First Grade. While still teaching, Patrick began coaching for Mesquite High School in Gilbert.  In his 13 seasons with the Wildcats, his Men’s Team has ranked in the Top 10 in the State of Arizona 6 times. He has overseen many eventual collegiate swimmers and his teams have achieved All-American Honors under his guidance and coaching.

Patrick joinded the RIO staff as the Head Coach of the Gilbert Jr. facility in 2011. He continues to head that group for the Pre-Competitive Team and is also the Head Coach of the RIO Masters Team. Patrick teaches lessons at EVO Swim School multiple times each week and runs private lessons for both children and adults.  

Patrick and his wife Hilary have been married for 8 years. They have 2 sons; 5 year old Kyler, who just started Kindergarten this past Fall and their youngest son, Teagan, who will soon to be 2, and have a daughter on the way. As much as Patrick enjoys his work in and around the pool, what he truly enjoys is spending time with his family.

Ashton Hobbs

Gilbert Jr. Assistant Coach

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Ashton Hobbs was born and raised in Yuma, Arizona and is the second child of Ellen and Steve Hobbs. She began swimming competitively at the age of 12 with the Yuma Heat Swim Team and continued  through her senior year of high school. While in high school she qualified for the Arizona H.S. State Championships, competing in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle and the 100 breastroke. 

Ashton is now a senior at Arizona State University studying journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. After graduation she hopes to one day work for a major sports network and is also considering the possibility of attending law school.

This is Ashton's first coaching experience and she has been with RIO since August 2011 as an assistant pre-competitive coach at the Gilbert Jr. site.

 

Alex Nicholls

Hamilton Head Coach

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Alex Nicholls graduated from Highland High in 2008 where he was a 4 year varsity swimmer and 4 year basketball player. In high school, he specialized in the 100 fly, 500 free, 200 free, 50 fly, 100 back, and 200 IM. In high school he got most improved swimmer award his sophomore year, dropping 2 minutes on his 500 free and 30 seconds on his 100 back. His junior and senior year he received the spirit award, for being the most supportive. 
 
Alex recently joined RIO from AquaSafe Swim School, which he had previously worked in two separate stints from 2008-2014. Alex has been coaching lessons for about 5 years and been coaching swim team for about 4 years. Alex also was honorary assistant coach for his high school team, as the teacher aid for his high school coach he was in charge of finding practice ideas and work outs, as well as finding what swimmers should swim in each meet.  
 
In 2009, he traveled to Colorado to serve an LDS mission, doing service and teaching people about Christ. Upon his return, Alex enrolled at Chandler-Gilbert Community College where he also played on the basketball team until he was injured his ankle and red-shirted the season. Alex is now working on his associates in business and marketing, then will go to ASU to work on his bachelors in journalism and broadcasting.

Andrea Courtney

Hamilton Assistant Coach

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Andrea Courtney was born and raised in Arizona. She started swimming competitively when she was 6 years old in Wray, Colorado, where her grandparents live and continued every summer until she was 17. She graduated from Marcos de Niza High School in 2004 where she swam on the Varsity team for 4 years and also played basketball all 4 years.  Her specialties included 100 back, 50 free, 100 free, and she was also an active member on the relays.  After high school she began coaching at Marcos de Niza for 1 year and then moved over to Corona Del Sol, where she coached for 5 years.  Andrea was the head swim coach at the Tempe Lifetime Fitness for 7 years.  She began her career with RIO in March 2013.  Currently she attending school to earn her degree in Substance Abuse Counseling.  

Kris Huffman

Queen Creek Head Coach

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Kristine Huffman moved to the San Tan Valley from Tucson where she had been coaching swimming and track and field at the high school level for the past 12 years.  She has coached swimming for Tucson area teams, and ran her own small team at one of the major resorts in Tucson. She has been a competitive swimmer all her life and has been coaching swimming, track and field, and soccer for age group athletes for 30 years.  She says, “I think it is extremely important for young athletes to have a great start with the best fundamentals of their chosen sport.  I am excited to join the RIO/EVO family and build an awesome community of great swimmers."