Congratulations to Karlene Denby, member of the Gulf LMSC, for winning the 2022 Jesse Coon Award! For a complete list of winners, click here

Karlene has been part of USMS since 1989 and have contributed in so many different ways to masters swimming! Her nomination letter below sums up all of the contributions that Karlene has made. Thank you Karlene for everything you have done for the Gulf and for masters swimming.

January 23, 2022

I would like to nominate Karlene Denby for the Jesse Coon Award.

Karlene began competing in Masters swimming in 1989. An amazing swimmer, she has held 446 individual top ten times, and 75 relay top ten times.  She has earned All-American awards six years for individual pool events, four years for relays, and nine years for long distance events.  She has been named Long Distance All-Star twice and has held a lifetime total of 11 USMS records.

All these swimming awards and records are a secret that Karlene keeps to herself. What the Gulf members know about her is what a talented and dedicated volunteer she has been and how diversified her roles are.  She has volunteered with the Gulf LMSC for over a dozen years and has served in many capacities. 

After attending Gulf LMSC board meetings for several years and helping with projects, Karlene was asked to take on a new position as “editor” of an LMSC newsletter in 2015. Starting from scratch, she wrote the majority of the newsletter herself and enlisted some contributing editors for specialized topics. Upon Bruce Rollin’s creation of Gulf Swim University (logging miles during the first four months of the year), Karlene saw an opportunity to engage the over 60% of the membership that did not attend pool competitions. She publicized Gulf Swim University and included the results in the newsletter each year. This led to the creation of another popular fitness event, “the 400 kick for time” which was also promoted in the newsletter. Karlene wanted the newsletter to include stories about diet, nutrition, and exercise, so she recruited a fellow swimmer and professional nutritionist to write articles, which included topics titled “Get Lean in 2016” and “Nutrition 101 for Athletes”. Karlene regularly recognizes USMS Top Ten and All-American swimmers in the newsletter, and she promotes Coaching Certification clinics and Adult Learn to Swim classes as they became available. She has also written articles about many of the LSMC teams and has encouraged others to contribute articles and pictures from Nationals, Zone, and local meets. She takes it upon herself to write many stories to cover all the Gulf events and goes the extra mile to contact individuals for information to accurately complete stories. In 2016 she received the June Krauser Communication Award for her outstanding work as the editor of the Gulf LMSC newsletter. She continues to produce our newsletter which is one of the best in the country. Additionally, she goes the extra mile by contacting the USMS National Office to alert them of some of the outstanding achievements made by Gulf members in hopes that USMS will choose to write about them.
Karlene served as the Gulf Secretary for four years from 2019 through 2022.  Her minutes are amazing as she succinctly summarized all the important information and had them ready for approval within days after each meeting.  She follows up quickly on all tasks that are asked of her and responds to email queries immediately.
Besides writing the newsletter, serving on the Gulf Board as Secretary, and currently taking on the role of Treasurer, Karlene stepped up when we needed help and assumed the positions of Long Distance Chair (2018-2020) and Fitness Chair (since 2019). She promoted long distance Masters swimming events and became the Volunteer Coordinator and Event Co-director for the inaugural Swim Across America-Houston charity swim. No doubt due to her dedication, her COOG teammates were the highest fund-raising group for the event that first year.  When the previous Fitness Chair stepped down, Karlene took over the role as coordinator for the Gulf Swim University fitness challenge.  She continues in that role, keeping the stats, communicating with and encouraging the participants, and organizing both a post-event social, and the design and distribution of awards to the participants.

Karlene became a Dorothy Donnelly Service Award winner in 2021, an honor which was well deserved.
Besides being a first class writer and newsletter producer and a consummate volunteer for the Gulf, Karlene became a Level 1 and 2 certified USMS coach in 2016. She previously worked as a Masters coach for South Shore Sails Masters. Now that she is retired, she volunteers when needed as substitute coach for COOG.  She also volunteers as the COOG USMS club representative and official contact.

Karlene is a team player.  She takes the time out to write nomination letters for other Gulf members and even nominates members from other LMSCs for awards.  She steps up whenever the Gulf has a vacancy that needs to be filled. This year she became the new Gulf Treasurer after the retirement of our previous Treasurer who served for 24 years.  She also steps up whenever her USMS Club needs her. She has been the most active volunteer for the COOG team, helping them with all their activities and communications and now filling in as a coach.

Karlene is the epitome of the ideal USMS member and volunteer. She is dedicated to USMS and the Gulf.  She impacts many members through her activities.  I believe that she deserves to earn the Jesse Coon Award.

Kris Wingenroth
Former Chairman, Gulf LMSC