When Dave Crocker came to Good Counsel as a freshman in 1987, he played football and competed on the Falcons' swimming and diving team.
Crocker enjoyed success in both sports but, as he grew up, seemed more suited for the gridiron than the pool.
"The older I got, the more I looked like a football player," said Crocker, who played center and defensive end for Good Counsel. "But I always loved swimming. I grew up with it. I started swimming in the summer when I was seven, and I loved it so much."
His love for the sport has kept Crocker in and around pools throughout his life. Now 29, Crocker has coached swimming at some level for the last 11 years. This winter, he will head the Good Counsel swimming and diving team for the sixth season.
Crocker has been a part of the most successful Metro Swimming and Diving Championship run of any team, boys or girls, in the history of the area. The Falcons' girls team has won six straight titles (the last five with Crocker as head coach), and this year is expected to win a seventh. Despite losing All-Met Girls Performer of the Year Rachael Burke, Good Counsel returns a solid core of veteran Metros points winners.
Leading the team this season is a core group of seniors, including captains Rachel Parker (backstroke), Rachel Tolbert (breaststroke and sprint freestyle) and Amanda Burke (distance freestyle). Last season at Metros, Parker took runner-up honors in the 100-yard backstroke, Tolbert placed third in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 50 free, and Burke placed third in the 500 free and fifth in the 200 free.
Two other seniors, Moira McCallister and Janine Carlini, also will play large roles this season.
The returning Falcons will be joined by freshman phenom Liz Kemp, already considered one of the best swimmers in the area. Kemp can contribute in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly events, and Crocker will fit her into the portion of the lineup that needs the most help.
During its run of Metros titles, Good Counsel consistently has attracted standout swimmers, like Kemp. That has had to do, in part, with its success and its experienced coaching staff.
"The fact that they'd won so many Metros titles made me want to go to the school," Parker said. "I knew I would be on a winning team, and that was something I was looking for. They have a lot of spirit, and the team is just a lot of fun. And the coaches are great."
Also attractive to elite swimmers is the Falcons' practice schedule. Good Counsel holds two team practices per week, but they are not mandatory.
"There are a lot of schools out there that require kids to come to practice no matter what," Crocker said. "For a girl like Rachel Parker, who swims nine times a week with her U.S.S. [United States Swimming club] team, and has all her homework on top of it, we feel it's too much for them. For the U.S.S. kids that are swimming regularly, we offer [Good Counsel] practices for stroke attention."
At those practices, there are at least two and up to six Good Counsel coaches, including Crocker's brother, John, and Jim Schlapo. John Crocker has been a college coach and has coached U.S.S. swimmers, while Schlapo, who coached the Crockers at Good Counsel, has been a coach for about 25 years.
"When the U.S.S. kids come, they get their own coach and work on what they want to work on," Dave Crocker said. "We try to complement what they're getting at their U.S.S. clubs."
Good Counsel then uses the meets leading up to Metros to tinker with and finalize its lineup, even though that sometimes results in a loss -- O'Connell defeated Good Counsel in the Falcons' season opener.
"I guess the system kind of works," Dave Crocker said.
After six consecutive titles, it's hard to argue with him.