OOSC History

The History of the Old Orchard Swim Team

Researched & compiled by Dan Thompson

{Updated 9/26/16}

OOSC-1966In 1964 the Old Orchard housing development was established in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. This was one of several planned residential areas within the township that consisted of beautiful single-family homes, excellent schools, and neighborhood swim clubs. At that time, Old Orchard’s developer donated a large plot of land on Evans Lane to house a new swim club. Through the tremendous efforts of John Dell’Aquila, a door to door campaign began in the mid-1960’s in order to sell charter swim club membership certificates to the new residents of Old Orchard. With the support and commitment of many resident families, the pool construction was completed and on July 4th, 1966 the neighborhood celebrated the grand opening of the Old Orchard Swim Club.

This new facility consisted of a clubhouse, two pools, a picnic area, and plenty of room for fun summer activities. Situated next to a stunning private farm, club members enjoyed the perfect amount of sun, shade, large trees, grass areas and swimming pools. The Old Orchard Swim Club not only offered its resident members an exciting recreational & social club where lifelong friendships were formed, but it also offered the neighborhood children a wonderful opportunity to participate in the exciting sport of competitive swimming!!!

In 1967 the Old Orchard Swim Team was formed by Don and Myra Frank, Joan Elliott, and Bob Rueppel. Interestingly, the team’s first swimsuit design was a reproduction of the 1964 US Olympic Team’s swimsuit. The swim team’s founders must have had incredible foresight since in the years that followed the Old Orchard Swim Team did indeed produce its own Olympic Swimmer as well as numerous collegiate swimmers!!! During that first season, the Old Orchard Otters competed in a small “Tri-Pool League” with two other clubs {Erlton and Pheasant Run}. By winning the season ending swim championship, the Old Orchard Otters started a tradition of top quality swimming & success which has continued for over 50 years.

Beginning in 1968 the Old Orchard Swim Club was invited to join the large Tri-County Swimming Pool Association, which consisted of multiple swim clubs located in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties. Additionally, the Old Orchard Swim Club was invited to compete against several other Cherry Hill swim clubs at the Cherry Bowl Swimming Championships. This annual swim meet consists of swim clubs located within Cherry Hill and it is recognized as the largest summer athletic event in the township! The first Cherry Bowl took place in 1960 and consisted of 5 teams. Today the Cherry Bowl consists of 13 swim clubs and this prestigious meet provides an opportunity for 750 of the town’s dedicated young swimmers to compete in 66 different events at the annual championship held each July.

 


OOSC 50th Anniversary Video

Over the years the Old Orchard Otters have had much success at both the Cherry Bowl Swimming Championships and also the Tri-County Swimming Championships. Below are a few notable highlights:

Old Orchard has hosted the Cherry Bowl Swimming Championship 4 times:

  • 1972
  • 1984
  • 1996
  • 2008

Old Orchard has won the annual Cherry Bowl Swimming Championship 21 times.  This is more than any other swim club!!!

  • 1975-1976 = 2 wins
  • 1978-1989 = 12 wins
  • 1991 = 1 win
  • 1993-1997 = 5 wins
  • 2016 = 1 win

Old Orchard has 6 alumni who have been selected to the Cherry Bowl Hall of Fame:

  • 1999 – Bob Rueppel
  • 2001 – Paul Ricci
  • 2002 – Suzanne Rueppel Gagnon
  • 2003 – Todd Kent
  • 2004 – The Girman Family
  • 2008 – Jeff Clemens

NOTE:  In 1999 former Old Orchard swimmer Kathryn “Katie” Mead was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Wexford Leas swim club.

These Old Orchard alumni were recognized for their outstanding contributions which included swimming accomplishments, coaching skills, organizational talents &/or their commitment of time to make Cherry Hill swimming a success.

Old Orchard has hosted the Tri-County Swimming Championships 3 times:

  • 1975
  • 1996
  • 2005

While Old Orchard has not yet won the Tri-County Championship {which is held each August}, the team has placed 2nd out of 36 swim teams on 5 occasions!!!!!

In 1996 Old Orchard became the only club to ever host both the Cherry Bowl & Tri-County swimming championship meets in the same year!!!

Below are some additional highlights from the Old Orchard Swim Club’s storied history:

 Old Orchard’sOlympic Otter:

Sean Killion: Between 1974 and 1985 future Olympic swimmer Sean Killion was a key member of the Old Orchard Swim Team. During that time he helped the team win 10 Cherry Bowl Championships! He also set numerous records at pools all across the Tri-County area. Additionally, Sean was a 4-time NJ state swimming champion who later competed in the prestigious Goodwill Games & at the 1991 Pan Am Games where he won a gold medal. Most notably, Sean was a member of the 1992 US Olympic Swim Team that competed in Barcelona, Spain!

Notable “Otter” Coaches:

Tom Brooks and Bob Ritter: In 1967 the newly formed Old Orchard Swim Team was coached by the pool manager {Tom Brooks} and the head lifeguard {Bob Ritter}. Together they guided the swim team to win its very first championship at the Tri-Pool League Swimming Championship Meet against Erlton and Pheasant Run on 7/29/67.

Larry Mordan: Larry was the second Otter head coach.

Steve Van Derhoff: During the 1970’s Steve was a well-known coach at the Jersey Wahoos who had a record of success. He led the Otters to its first Cherry Bowl championships!!!

Tony Lisa: Tony became the head coach of the Old Orchard team in 1980 and he won the Cherry Bowl championship in each of his multiple seasons with the club!!! Subsequently Tony became a well-respected college swim coach. Last year he celebrated his 35th year as the head swimming and diving coach at Rowan University. He was also an assistant swim coach at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy.

Pat Behan: Pat was a very popular Otter head coach who never lost a Cherry Bowl championship while coaching at Old Orchard.

Suzanne Gagnon: Suzanne was a talented swimmer for the Old Orchard Swim Team during a time in which the Otters won 10 Cherry Bowl championships. Suzanne was also a very successful coach. She was the assistant coach in 1988 and 1989 and was the team’s head coach from 1990 through 1997. Under her coaching leadership, the Otters won an amazing 8 Cherry Bowl championships. While she is no longer coaching, Suzanne is still very active at the club and she continues to provide invaluable assistance to the Old Orchard swimming program.

Chris Brookover: Chris began his swimming career in Denver, Colorado. During the 1980’s Chris achieved “All American Honorable Mention” in the 100 Butterfly, qualified for the Junior and Senior Nationals, and earned a swimming scholarship at the University of Wyoming. While at college, Chris was the swim team captain during his junior and senior years. After college Chris served as an assistant coach for the University of Wyoming and later coached at Colorado State University. Chris & his family are long-time members of the Old Orchard Swim Club. Over the years he has served as a Board Member, a Meet Official, a Tri-County Representative, and also as the President of the Tri-County Swimming Pool Association. Additionally, between 1998 and 2015 he coached at the Jersey Wahoos Swim Club and for several years he also served as the head coach of the Moorestown Friends School varsity swim team. In 2014 Chris became the head coach of the Old Orchard Swim Team and in 2015 Chris also became the Head Coach and Director of Competitive Swimming at the YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties.

Under the guidance of Coach Chris, the Old Orchard Swim Team has successfully earned 3rd place finishes at the 2014 and 2015 Cherry Bowl Championships and a 1st place finish in 2016!

 The Annual Bob Rueppel Mini-Meet at Old Orchard:

One of the “founding fathers” of the Old Orchard Swim Team is Bob Rueppel. He was instrumental in forming the original swim team and also developing relationships, which led to the club’s longstanding association with the Tri-County Swimming Pool Association and the Cherry Hill Association of Pools {i.e.: Cherry Bowl Championships}.

Based upon a unique idea presented by former Old Orchard coach Steve Van Derhoff, Bob helped to realize & create a “Mini-Meet” solely for the benefit of young swimmers. The Annual Bob Rueppel Mini-Meet was established as a means to encourage young children to experience and enjoy competitive swimming. For over 45 years the Old Orchard Swim Club has hosted this wonderful swim meet for children ages 9 and under. Each year this annual swim meet offers a fun opportunity for hundreds of children to experience the joys of competitive swimming while competing only with other children of the same age.

Since 1969 children throughout New Jersey have participated in this 61-event swim meet, which even includes fun “kick board” races for the youngest participants!!! This mini-meet is held during the month of July when the pool water is absolutely perfect for young swimmers to compete. The success of this annual event is in part due to the fun, relaxed and safe outdoor swimming environment offered by the Old Orchard Swim Club. The local swimming community owes much to Steve and Bob for this exceptional event in which young children really do experience the joys of competitive swimming!!!

OOSC Historical Photos

1970-1980 era Old Orchard Mini-Meet Patch