At this year’s Delaware Independent School Conference (DISC) swimming tournament, Tatnall senior David Crossland won both the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke events, dropping his times by eight seconds.
While the victory was sweet, there was an even bigger prize on the table, the St. Andrew’s pool record for the 100 butterfly, set by former Australian Olympian Brett Hawke with a time of 49.90.
Crossland eclipsed it with a 49.40 in his final high school race on his way to being named Delaware Boys’ Swimmer of the Year for the third straight year.
“I’ve been chasing that record since sophomore year,” Crossland said. “When recruiting really started, I was excited to learn who Brett Hawke was, and then as Auburn became the leader in the pack of schools, obviously I got to know him pretty well. Right after I broke the record, I texted him a picture of the record board and said, ‘Sorry but you’re name’s not going to be on there anymore,’ and obviously he took it very well. He knew I was going for it as a challenge for me.”
Hawke, now the head coach at Auburn, was glad one of his recruits broke his mark.
“He actually sent me a text telling me that it was going to get broken that day,” Hawke said. “I said ‘By who?’ and he said ‘By me.’ And I said, ‘Good luck, it needs to be broken, it’s been up there too long,’ and then he sent me one that said he’d broken it, and I told him I was so happy for him. It’s a natural progression, your swimmers should be faster than you and he definitely is on the right path.”
Crossland was 8 when began to swim year-round. He joined the Delaware Swim Team, where he remains. Crossland said he hasn’t always been consistently quick throughout his career, and that there was a time when he thought he would give the sport up completely. ‘
“When I was younger, it was a different story,” he said. “I almost ended up quitting when I was maybe 11 just because I hit a plateau and for a year and a half or two years, my times weren’t getting any faster, and I was still going to practices and doing everything I could or should have done to make my times drop but I wasn’t getting any faster, and then my old coach sat me down and said that ‘this happens to everybody, I know you’re frustrated but just stick with it.’ He convinced me to stick with the sport, and the next year, my times just plummeted.”
The hard work in the pool makes for a hectic schedule.
“Three days a week, I have morning practices, so I’ll wake up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday around 4:40, go down, have breakfast, then have practice from 5:30 to 7 in the morning,” he said. “After that, I’ll go to school, and then come back and swim from 3:30 to 6 and then go home, eat dinner, and just try to finish my homework. It’s a lot, but it works, so I can’t really complain.”
Crossland was the only senior Hornet swimmer this season. So he set about making sure the younger swimmers felt comfortable.
“Early in the year, I kind of knew that I was going to have to be a role model for these younger swimmers, so during the year I tried to talk to the guys whenever possible, pass on as much of my experiences as I could so next year, when I’m gone, they can continue to reuse the lessons I tried to give them since I won’t be there,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll pass them on to the people who come up behind them as well.”
Tatnall head coach Matt Oberholzer said Crossland was a big help.
“He would help us out by talking to the kids and saying how you want to pace this 500, for this time for each hundred, so by using his instinct and his knowledge that he gained from his experience, he is able to say ‘OK, this is what you’re looking for if you want to go this time, this is how fast you have to go for each hundred or 50’ or whatever it might be,” Oberholzer said. “It wasn’t just one time, it was almost every meet he was pointing something out to each kid, which helped us tremendously because it was myself and my wife who was my co-coach.”
Crossland will major in business and said he believes that the discipline he has learned from swimming will pay off for him in whatever he does.
“It’s just his inner drive,” he said of Crossland. “He wants to be part of a great team, he wants to be a great athlete individually, he’s got very high hopes for himself, he’s got very high standards and I like that about him.”
Hawke said Crossland’s versatility will make him a key swimmer for Auburn.
“He’s a racer, he just loves to race. I think at the NCAA level you need to be competitive and you need to like to race, and like I said, he’s versatile, so he can swim different distances, 100s and 200s, different strokes, backstroke and butterfly primarily, he’s going to be a really good relay asset for us and he’s going to be a good individual swimmer for us.”
With his place firmly set in the Tigers’ lineup next season, Crossland has his eyes firmly set on competing in the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., in late June. Both Hawke and Crossland said it will be a “learning experience” he can take back to Auburn in the fall. While the top two in each event will make the U.S. Olympic Team, Crossland said he is shooting to finish in the Top 16.
Crossland said that with time comes maturity, and that what he learns this year will help him in four years’ time, when he could vie for the 2020 Olympic team.
“When I was eight years old, I wasn’t a very good swimmer,” he said. “So I put in hours and hours of work, so it’s just a great opportunity I’ve been blessed to get.”