By STEVE LEE
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2000
ZEPHYRHILLS -- In just its third season, Ridgewood is making a strong bid for its first conference championship.
Of course, it all comes down to how teams fare in the Sunshine Athletic Conference meet. But the Rams' 3-0 start makes them a viable contender.
"It gives them the confidence they need to go after the conference title," Ridgewood coach Sue Vien said after Wednesday's 221-146 win over Zephyrhills at the Hercules Aquatics Center.
The Bulldogs dropped to 0-2, but coach Shannon Mathews commended the girls team, which won three of the last six races, and Kevin Demers for his victory in the 500 freestyle.
Before the meet, Demers, a sophomore transfer from Connecticut, told Mathews he would break the school record in the 500 free. His winning time of 6 minutes, 51.86 seconds was about six seconds off the mark set by Stephan Apel in 1997, the first year for Zephyrhills' swim team.
"I think we've got somebody here who is truly driven," Mathews said. "He's here to show up and do something."
Lindsey Hayes (200 free, 2:31.71), Jessica Leeman (100 breaststroke, 1:25.71), Sharleen Szeliga (100 butterfly, 1:27.36) and Nancy Edwards (50 free, 30.50) won one event and swam on two winning relay teams for Ridgewood, which won the first six girls races.
Zephyrhills' Mary Katherine Mason snapped that streak with a victory in the 100 free (1:03.69). Mason also won the 100 backstroke (1:13.77) after teaming up with Carissa Foster, Stacey Hill and Melissa Ferguson to win the 200 free relay (2:08.78).
Jeremy Morel won the boys diving (151.1 points) for Zephyrhills with injured Richard Shields of Ridgewood looking on.
Shields has been sidelined for two weeks with a torn abdominal muscle he sustained while practicing for wrestling. He said he will be back for Wednesday's meet against Gulf, which boasts two of the best divers in the conference in Jacob Vaughn and Mike Rowe.
"I just want to dive," said Shields, adding that the Gulf divers "bring out the best in me."
Joe Dalia led the Ridgewood boys with victories in the 200 individual medley (2:23.04) and 100 breast (1:11.97). He also swam on two winning relay teams.