The 1988-1989 Peddie girls’ swim team was small in numbers, but deep in talent, versatility and determination. Undefeated national champions, the list of individual and team accomplishments is daunting. During the careers of the 13 competitors, they accumulated well over 80 All-American honors with 28 in 1989 alone.
Among the stars were Peddie Hall of Fame inductee Barbara “BJ” Bedford ’90, whose legendary career culminated with a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games on the 400-meter medley relay. Jane Skillman ’91, Hall of Fame Class of 1992, was a seven-time Easterns champion, 17-time All-American, and a multiple medal winner at the international level. Captain Sarah Perroni proved herself as a clutch relay swimmer and excelled at all distances in the freestyle events. Riccio was named Atlantic 10 Swimmer of the Year and several-time MVP in the Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Championships while at West Virginia before competing in the 1992 Olympic Trials in the 100 butterfly. Matheson continues to hold Top 10 performances in six events at Lafayette College.
Coming off the heels of a fifth-place finish in Swimming World Magazine’s national standings the year before, the team gained valuable experience and, according to head coach Chris Martin, “set their goal to try to win a national championship.” To get to the top of high school swimming, Peddie had to be quicker than Germantown Academy (Pa.), defending champion St. Andrew’s (Fla.) and perennial power Mission Viejo (Calif.). Sweeping the dual meet season at 7-0, the Falcons overpowered Germantown by over 60 points to win Easterns, the first of what would be three-straight victories (1989-91).
Coincidentally, the national championship was decided in the final event at Easterns. National team standings are scored by comparing times at championship meets in all 50 states. Going into the 400-yard freestyle relay, Germantown led the standings by just a half-point over Peddie. Facing a much-heralded Germantown quartet, Laura Koerckel touched a hair’s width ahead of Olympian Trina Radke (52.30 to 52.31). Skillman (52.51) pulled out a second-and-a-half advantage over Melissa Cline (53.95). Bedford (52.05) increased the margin slightly against Julie Kole (52.22). On the anchor, Perroni (50.95) held off speedster Jeanne Gibbons (50.14) for the victory in 3:27.81 and the team national title with 80 points versus 72.5 for Germantown.
At season’s end, “BJ” Bedford ’90, Amey Bosseler ’90, Laura Koerckel ’91, Maria Koziol ’91, Laurie Matheson ’89, Kristyn Noeth ’90, Sarah Perroni ’89, Renee Riccio ’89, Jane Skillman ’91 and Julie Veremey ’90 all earned at least two All-American honors. Several team members went on to win Easterns and Nationals in 1990 and 1991. The 1989 team established a culture of success which brought great honor to their school.