by Mike Kelber, Salem Kroc Masters
Aqua Master Contributor
Dave Radcliff came to Ontario, California in 1963 as a history teacher at Chaffey High School. His Olympic credentials more than qualified him to coach the swim team and start a new water polo team. Prior to Coach Radcliff, the swim team coaching job was a faculty default position. The team that Dave inherited consisted mainly of surfers and beach bums trying to maintain their tans through the winter months. What better way to do that than swimming daily in an outdoor pool.
The pool at Chaffey was built in the early 30s as a WPA project and was affectionately known as “The Plunge”. The plunge was opened as a public pool every summer and multiple generations of Ontario kids learned to swim there. For some reason, a 50 meter Olympic pool was built instead of the standard 25 yard high school competition pool. This turned out to be a nice advantage for the Chaffey swimmers when meets were held at our pool. Most of the other Southern California schools had never swum in an LCM pool. Their fatigue and awe of that long pool worked to the advantage of the Chaffey swimmers. But none of that would have mattered if it wasn’t for Coach Radcliff.
Somehow, this young, unassuming, bespectacled coach instilled a sense of respect, teamwork and competition to a rather rowdy, unmotivated group of swimmers. In his first 3 years of coaching, Dave took his team to win the Citrus Belt League Championship. I believe that every kid who had the honor of swimming under Dave left with a lifelong gift of what sportsmanship was, as well as a never-ending respect and love for our Coach. He continued building on his legacy through 1974 when he was tapped for more administrative duties.
2 years ago, the school district made the decision to raze The Plunge due to its high maintenance costs as well as changing rules for a legal pool for high school swim meets. A 25 yard, state of the art aquatic center would replace the plunge. When Earl Phares (’66) learned of this, he contacted me, and a Go Fund Me page was set up to raise money for a plaque honoring Coach Radcliff. Our plan was to install the plaque at the new aquatic center. Many of my colleagues from the ‘60s as well as his history students and friends donated money for this cause. My brother-in-law, Ron Guillory, a Los Angeles based graphic designer, graciously volunteered to design the plaque. With Earl’s unrelenting negotiating with the school district, school principal and alumni association, 2 years later the plaque was installed.
The plaque is up but a formal dedication ceremony has yet to be held. The next time Dave and Nancy travel to So Cal, we will try to arrange that honor. But for now, thank you Coach, for all you have given to so many of us.