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Admiring Debbie Cavanaugh

Received Dorothy Donnelly award in 2006

Sharon Robb | May 1, 2003

Debbie Cavanaugh received the Dorothy Donnelly USMS Service Award in 2006. As secretary of Gold Coast Masters Swim Club she manages all relay entries for championships. She has served for eight years as chairman of the Gold Coast LMSC. During convention, she leads the USMS Certification Desk. Debbie serves on the Championships Committee and was the committee’s liaison to the 2005 Short Course Nationals.

Debbie was featured along with Cav in USMS Swimmer magazine in 2005 in "The Sea Dog and the Mermaid."

Swimmer has a magical meet

published May 1, 2003, Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, by Sharon Robb

Debbie Cavanaugh of Fort Lauderdale got more than her 15 minutes of fame at the recent YMCA Masters National Swimming and Diving Championships in Sarasota.

Competing for the 34-member West Broward YMCA swim team, Cavanaugh, 45, broke four individual event national records and was a member of two national record-breaking relays. She bettered her lifetime bests in all six events.

"She swam an inspired meet and blew the records away," said her husband, Cav Cavanaugh, who usually wins the most medals of the family. The 67-year-old world age-group record holder won six events.

Cavanaugh won the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke events, 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke and 100 and 200 individual medley races. She broke national records in the 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke and 200 backstroke. She broke the 200 breaststroke record by four seconds in 2:44.43. The record was 2:48.98 and her previous best time was 2:50.74.

Pool partners

by Cynthia Thuma, copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
May 3, 2002



For Debbie and Cav Cavanaugh, swimming isn't just about athletic competition. It has helped strengthen their relationship and bring them friendships and happiness. "Yeah, you could say that has been the case with us," Debbie Cavanaugh said as she waited for her next championship heat at the YMCA Masters National Championships at the Hall of Fame Aquatic Center. The Fort Lauderdale residents first met when Cav was a math teacher and swimming and water polo coach at what is now Ransom-Everglades School in Coconut Grove. Debbie was a student there, who went on to swim for the University of Miami. She went on to coach swimming and water polo at Ransom-Everglades, where her water polo teams won a pair of state championships. Cav, who swam for West Virginia University, left Ransom-Everglades and taught at Fort Lauderdale High and Coral Park High in Miami-Dade County. A native of Brookville, Pa., he had spent summers in his youth rowing, rafting and boating on the Susquehanna and Ohio rivers. "I think that's where I really got my love for swimming," he said. One day, Debbie encountered Cav at a swim meet at Gribble Park Pool in North Miami. They reminisced a little, talked some more and something clicked for them both. The relationship blossomed. "Things took off from there," Debbie said. Six years ago, after a 14-year hiatus from swimming, Cav returned to the pool, competing in the 60-64 year-old age group for the South Broward YMCA. Debbie returned, too. In addition to competing, in 1997 she became president of the Florida Gold Coast Local Masters Clubs, a position she still holds. She also serves as a volunteer coach and assists the United States Masters swimming's history project. Cav's specialty is freestyle, especially the sprint events. At the YMCA Masters Nationals, Cav's accomplishments included victories in the 50-meter butterfly, 100 and 200 freestyle and a leg on the winning 200 free relay with teammates Robert McDonald, Leonard Silverstein and Alan Rapperport. Debbie finished third in the 200 backstroke, fourth in the 50 breaststroke and fifth in the 100 backstroke. "We recently returned from a three-month cruise [on their boat] around the Bahamas," she explained. "For not being in swimming for that time, I'm happy." The Cavanaughs, along with June Krauser, one of the founders of the Masters swimming movement, helped start the Gold Coast Masters and have enjoyed watching and shepherding its growth. The records, medals and honors they've amassed along the way are nice, they say, but the enduring joy comes from the people they've met and the friendships made. "They're such a nice group," Debbie Cavanaugh said. "In swimming, you meet such nice people."

Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Debbie Massie Cavanaugh was a seventh grade student in my physical education class at Everglades School for girls in the fall of 1971. She was a tiny BBB (beautiful bright blonde) and it did not take me long to determine that Debbie was a winner, an achiever and a leader.

This little girl was intelligent, co-operative and respectful. Debbie was the first to volunteer to help me and/or the girls of lesser athletic ability. She was a natural athlete and played team and individual sports with a passion. At all times Debbie exemplified good sportsmanship. Her academic achievements and service to her school and community were equally awesome.

But, little girls will be "little girls" and Debbie was no exception. I came upon Debbie and several classmates flushing my tennis balls down the toilets in the locker room. I read them the riot act! I threatened reporting them to the head mistress! I threatened detentions! "Oh, Mrs. Bruce", Debbie quickly popped up. "We're just washing them!" I had to laugh to myself because I thought it was a great excuse.

Debbie participated on tennis, swimming and water polo teams while at Ransom Everglades and excelled at all three sports. After college Debbie was employed by Ransom Everglades and was part of the middle school physical education department during the 1980s. She taught health and physical education to grades seven and eight. Debbie was also the assistant swim coach. Her input was instrumental in the swim team winning seven consecutive district titles. She was also coach of the boys and girls water polo teams. The school won several state championships under Debbie's leadership.

Time does march on and I became reacquainted with Debbie when she began to participate in Masters swimming meets. Eventually Debbie assumed chairmanship of Florida Gold Coast Masters Swimming and also volunteers coaching duties with the Gold Coast Masters Swim Club.

So, now! What has happened? The tables are turned! Now, Debbie is MY coach and mentor! MY figure of authority!

Think of how many things have changed since I met Debbie in 1971! America was at war with Viet Nam and now they are one of our biggest trade partners. Woodstock was the symbol of rebellion. Today the establishment is building a Music and Cultural Arts Center on its site.

Well, Debbie has not changed. Yes, she has matured into an adult women, but her basic qualities of compassion, kindness, intelligence and respect for others is ever present. Debbie's marriage to handsome, debonair, world record holder Cav Cavanaugh has further enhanced her life. I want to say in conclusion that Debbie's life has won the admiration of all of us that know and love her.

by Cynthia Joan Bruce, November 9, 2000

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