WEST DEPTFORD – It had been 27 years since Green-Fields Swim Club last won a Tri-County Championship Meet title, but head coach Nancy Pegues had an inkling this would be the year. After all, what better way to end the streak than to do it in your own pool.
“Five years ago, we knew we were going to be hosting Tri-County and we started to prepare,” said Pegues, who has been the Turtles coach since 1986. “Then three years ago we were kind of struggling. Well, not really struggling, but Wedgewood was dominant, and Pomona was dominant, then we started to pick up some new families and it kind of came together.”
The Turtles preparation culminated in a dominating performance at the 63rd annual Tri-County Swimming Burt German Championships. With 65 individual qualifiers and all of its relays seeded in the top 12, and parents, many of them members of the team that last won in 1992, cheering enthusiastically from the pool deck, Green-Fields rolled up 905.50 points, easily outdistancing Deer Brook which was second with 742 points. Pomona (661), Wenonah (529) and Old Orchard (477) rounded out the top five.
“We pulled them together at the beginning of the year and we talked to them,” Pegues said. “We told them you’re never going to experience this again, get qualified for Tri-County.”
The Turtles finished first in five relays, including both the 15-18 boys medley and free relays, and were second in five more relays and third in two.
Individually, Turtles swimmers won six events and were led by Gabriel Condit and Jack Ruggieri who won two apiece. Condit finished first in the 11-12 50-meter back with a meet record time of 29.77 seconds and later won the 11-12 50-meter fly in 29.47 seconds. Meanwhile, Ruggieri finished first in the 15-18 boys 100-meter free with a time 51.84 seconds and also captured the 50-meter butterfly in 25.11 seconds. The other Green-Fields individual winners were Cecelia Jess in the girls 8-under 25-meter breaststroke and Grace Popoff in the girls 8-under 25-meter butterfly.
“It feels great,” said Ruggieri who joined the Turtles this year after previously swimming for Haddon Glen. “After we won A Division I could see how special this team was and I knew we could do great things at Tri-County.
“I knew the individual races were going to be tough. Aaron Williams (Greenwood Park) is really good in fly. He’s young and is going to be tough to beat next year and Matt Watts (Covered Bridge) is great in free. I thought I could win everything I would swim at Tri-County.”
Green Fields also had five swimmers finish in second and five in third and racked up points with top 12 finishes in a number of events.
Kyra Schwerzler, whose father, Jack, and his five sisters, all swam at Green Fields, added a second-place finish in the girls 15-18 50 breaststroke, but it took a meet record swim by Sunnybrook’s Christina Levins to beat her. Levins won in 32.92 seconds, while Schwerzler touched in 34.31.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I can’t really describe it, I’m so happy to be part of a championship in my last Tri-County.”
Other meet records were set by Ryan Cortes, Willowdale, boys 13-14 100-meter I.M. with a time 1:01.17; Deer Brook in the girls 13-14 200-meter medley relay; Wenonah in the boys 13-14 200-meter medley relay; Sunnybrook in the girls 15-18 200-meter medley relay; Abby Zane, Deer Brook, girls 13-14 50-meter fly in 28.83; and Willowdale in the boys 13-14 200-meter free relay.