Air Force head women's swimming coach Keith (Casey) Converse posted his 200th victory at the Academy during the 2002-03 season to pass Lt. Col. Paul Arata in total wins at Air Force. Converse enters the 2004-05 season with 229-144-2 career record.
"I am grateful for the successes we have achieved as a team here at the Academy," said Converse. "Anyone who knows anything about our program over the past 16 years knows that the credit for all the victories we have enjoyed goes to the tremendously dedicated officer-coaches and cadet-athletes. On a personal level, I am struck by what a privilege it is to work at the Academy and to be a part of the history of this great institution."
Converse continued, "I am fortunate to have been acquainted with two of the "founding fathers" of the swim program at the Academy. Bob Nugent and Paul Arata both wore many hats during their time as officer-head coaches, but both expressed their passion and best memories in terms of their coaching opportunities. As the first full-time civilian head coach I feel fortunate to be able to devote the largest part of my energies to building the swimming and diving programs. This is a luxury that former officer-coaches did not have."
After guiding the men's and women's swimming programs for 10 years, Converse is in his seventh season coaching only the women and his 17th season at the Academy. Converse has built an outstanding program with both teams over the last decade. Over the past couple of seasons, Converse has more than met the challenge of transforming the women's squad from a dominant Division II program to a respected member of the Mountain West Conference.
For eight seasons (1989-96), Converse directed the women to an outstanding 73-21 record at the Division II level. The Falcons were dominant in the Division II ranks, winning five conference championships (Continental Divide and Pacific Collegiate) and two national championships (1995 and 1996). Additionally, the women finished in the top 10 a total of five times.
Individually, Converse has coached 32 different athletes who have earned first-team All-American honors a total of 178 times. He has also guided six athletes to 13 national titles, four relay teams to national titles (including the 1996 400-medley relay team that established an NCAA Division II record) and 10 swimmers to Western Athletic Conference titles and two MWC Champions.
In 1998, Connie Cann became the second Falcon to compete in the NCAA Division I Women's Championships. Under Converse's guidance, Cann finished fifth in the WAC Championships in the 100 butterfly before going on to finish 21st in that event at the NCAA Championships.
No stranger to national acclaim, Converse has earned coach of the year honors a total of five times at either the NCAA Division II level, the WAC or the Pacific Collegiate Swimming & Diving Conference.
As impressive as his record is in the pool of competition, Converse has also coached athletes that have accomplished a great deal academically. A total of 27 athletes have earned all-conference honors a total of 41 times under coach Converse, leading all Academy teams in this category.
In 2004, 10 Falcon swimmers and divers earned academic all-conference honors. The CSAA named the team Academic All-American with a 2.990 cumulative grade-point average.
Prior to the Academy, Converse guided the swimming program at New Mexico State. His three-year stint may have been short, but the Aggies benefited from Converse's knowledge. The women achieved their first winning season in a decade as they went 6-5 in 1988 while the men recorded their best finish ever (fourth) at the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (PCAA) Championships. A total of 10 swimmers qualified for the U.S. Nationals, while 37 school records were established. Converse netted a dual meet record of 12-35 while in Las Cruces.
Before his college coaching career began, Converse was the assistant coach of the Cincinnati Pepsi Marlin Swim Team. In 1984, he guided the Mid-American swim team in Topeka, Kan., and from 1981-84, he served as Mid-America's head age group coach.
His coaching career began in 1980 in San Antonio, Texas, as he was the Metropolitan YMCA's head master's coach.
Converse was a member of the coaching staff for the U.S. Long Distance swimming team at the Pan Pacific Championships.
The following year, he was the head coach for the Athletes in Action summer project which produced five finalists at the U.S. Nationals in Mission Viejo, Calif.
his service to the sport includes NCAA Y.E.S. (Youth Education through Sports) guest clinician in 1993 and 1999.
A native of Topeka, Kan., Converse graduated from Mission Viejo High School (Calif.) in 1976 and went on to attend the University of Alabama. He earned a bachelor's degree in education from Washburn University (KS) in 1984.
Few college coaches, in any sport, can match Converse's own athletic career accomplishments. A distance freestyle specialist, Converse swam on the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team as an 18-year old, placing ninth in the 400 freestyle. At Alabama, Converse burst onto the national scene as he not only won the national title in the 1,650 free his freshman year but also set an American record and became the first man to break the 15-minute mark in the event (14:57.39). He also broke the NCAA record in the 1,000 free that same year.
Converse lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Sherry, and their two daughters, Rosie (17) and Maggie (15).