Written by Bryan Messerly
Dan “Cav” Cavanaugh, who was WVU’s first swimming NCAA qualifier, was a dominant swimmer for the Mountaineer men’s swimming team from 1955-60.
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A native of Brookville, Pa., who was raised in Parkersburg, W.Va., and graduated from Parkersburg High, Cavanaugh was a two-time NCAA qualifier during his Mountaineer career. He was a two-time Southern Conference champion, winning the 100 (53.4) and 440 (4:53.2) freestyle events at the 1960 Southern Conference Championship. Cavanaugh’s winning 440 freestyle time was a then-Southern Conference record.
Cavanaugh was a two-time WVU team captain in 1959 and 1960. During his career, he set numerous WVU records: 100 freestyle (53.4), 220 freestyle (2:14.4), 440 freestyle (4:53.2) and tied the 50 freestyle (24.9) record. Cavanaugh's 220 freestyle record in 1960 also set a Mountaineer pool record. He missed two seasons of competition at WVU due to military service.
Cavanaugh earned several honors at WVU: the 1960 Morgantown Touchdown Club Minor Sports Athlete of the Year and the 1959 Fi Batar Cappar Honorary Minor Sports Athlete of the Year. He was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity and Fi Batar Cappar Honorary. He was also chosen as one of the top 20 seniors at WVU.
He graduated from WVU in 1960 and became a teacher and successful coach, including a stint at the University of Miami where he was a water polo coach. Cavanaugh directed the Coral Park High girls team to a state championship in 1966 and also coached at Miami Ransom Everglades at Fort Lauderdale High. He was later inducted into the Coral Park Hall of Fame and the Ransom Everglades Hall of Fame in 2004 for his coaching efforts.
Cavanaugh developed numerous All-Americans, including his three sons. His middle son, Chris, was part of the USA Gold medal winning 4x100 meter freestyle relay team at the 1984 Olympics.
Cavanaugh continues to swim and has won numerous awards and honors. He is a 15-time individual All-American and an eight-time relay All-American. He has 319 individual and 90 relay top-10 finishes.
An original member of the masters program since its inception in 1972, he was inducted into the Florida Gold Coast LMSC (Local Masters Swimming Program) Hall of Fame in 1998. Cavanaugh holds 31 Florida Coast LMSC records.
Cavanaugh set numerous world records and still holds the 100-meter world record at 1:05.40 for the 70-75 age group. He also currently holds six individual and 13 relay records in U.S. Masters Swimming and the second-fastest 50 free and 100 free, and fourth-fastest 200 free in the country (75-79 age group).
Cavanaugh, who is a retired sailboat yacht captain, and his wife Debbie, also a masters swimmer, live in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and have three sons – Dan, Chris (swam at USC) and Kevin (swam at UCLA) – and six grandchildren.