Jenny Smith has an athletic career rooted in swimming with multiple Full-Distance (Ironman), Half-Distance, Sprint, Olympic triathlons under her belt racing across the country, and four “Swim the Suck” finishes (a competitive 10 mile open water swim down the TN river). She started as a competitive age group swimmer beginning at the Indianapolis Swim Club, swimming for Carmel High School (girls hold a 30 year consecutively 7A State Championships legacy), and graduating Indiana University where “Doc” Counsilman was a pioneer and legend. She completed her first swim of the English Channel in August 2017.
She is a certified yoga & meditation teacher, a Board Certified Ultrasound Technologist, a world wanderer, a pianist, an avid tennis player, an artist, and an outdoor enthusiast. Jenny and her husband, Will, enjoy living in Chattanooga with their two boys, two dogs, one cat, and lizard. Jenny offers a unique and holistic approach to her swimming and coaching.
There are only 1212 people to have ever swam the English Channel, less than 50 people who have managed to swim the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland and only 174 people to have completed the Triple Crown that includes a 20-mile across the Catalina Channel, California, and the 20 Bridges, a 28-mile circumnavigation around Manhattan Island, and the English Channel. She is the 20th swimmer to achieve the Grand Slam completing the Triple Crown and swimming the 24 mile Tampa Bay Marathon. Just one of these endurance swims would be an amazing feat for anyone but Chattanooga resident, Jenny Smith, has done them all.
Jenny Smith is not new to endurance sports. Over her lifetime she has completed four full triathlons, three half triathlons, and over a dozen century bike rides, as well as marathon swims in oceans all around the world. She is also one of the few elite swimmers in the world who is invited to attend the Cork Distance Week in Ireland, comprising of 9 punishing days of challenging swimming, the toughest amateur marathon swim training in the world.
Putting this training to good use, in August 2017 Jenny decided to take on the English Channel. Many people have tried and failed but Jenny was not deterred. “It was a euphoric and surreal swim,” Jenny recalls. Her swim coach and friend, Anne Cleveland passed two months before her English Channel swim, she was to be on her boat to crew.
“Anne was there in a different form,” she continues. “while on the swim I was visited by harbor porpoises. The porpoises have not been seen in the overfished waters for many years and yet one swam right underneath me, belly to belly, off the coast of France. It was the encouragement I needed to push through the strong currents off the shores of France and into the Cap Nes Griz. I knew then that Anne was with me in spirit.”
Her crew husband, Will, their sons, Max and Zane were on the Louise Jane piloted by Andy and James King (who also piloted Anne on her English Channel crossings). Two months later, inspired to complete the Triple Crown of Open water Swimming, Jenny found herself swimming her second historic swim, the Catalina Channel, 20-miles from Santa Catalina Island to Rancho Palos Verdes in California. She completed the chilly night time swim in just 10 hours, 45 minutes. “It was a magical swim with a pod of dolphins
whistling, chatting and playing around me. During feeds the dolphins wanted to play with the light-stick attached to my suit! There were also enormous manta rays floating up to the escort boat lights, sea lions wrestling under me, and two large whales (Minke or Blue migrating) circling me, my kayaker, and boat.”
On June 30, 2018, Jenny completed the Triple Crown by swimming 20 Bridges, a 28-mile circumnavigation around Manhattan Island, swimming the East River, Harlem River, and Hudson River in 8 hours 52 minutes. She is the 174th person to have completed all three
of these extraordinary swims. “20 Bridges had very different challenges for me, the air temperature was scorching hot in the upper 90’s, and the scalding water temperature was 84-89F. I had weight on for the North Channel swim, and it was difficult for me to not overheat and suffer heat exhaustion. I had to slow my pace right down.”
She had a special crew on her pilot boat keeping her hydrated and cool, two swimmers from Baylor Tri Masters, Stephanie Davis and Craik Davis. Stephanie and Craik are not only swim masters at Baylor but are also great friends and supporters of Jenny. “It was so much fun to have such good friends with me in New York City, they have been instrumental in helping me train this past Winter and Spring in Lake Chickamauga.”
Jenny’s most recent swim was in August this year (2018). Regarded as one of the toughest open swims in the world, the North Channel swim is 21-miles of the coldest and most inhospitable waters filled with the strongest currents and blooms of lion mane jellyfish. She swam in the 52-54F sea water from Donaghadee, Northern Ireland to Portpatrick, Scotland in 13 hours, 6 minutes and 30 seconds, while enduring many stings from the lion mane jellyfish. She is one of less than 50 swimmers in the world to have successfully
crossed the North Channel.
Recently, she swam the Tampa Bay Marathon (2019). The 24 mile bay swim was a challenge due to strong winds, it made for a long day for her kayaker and crew. She completed the choppy water swim in 12 hours 34 minutes. Completion of this swim combined with her Triple Crown makes her the 20th Grand Slam swimmer.
Jenny Smith swam competitively as an age group swimmer in Indiana and swam at 7A Carmel High School, where Girls Swimming has “32 consecutive state championships (1986- present) which is the longest all-time state championship streak in the nation in any sport.” Source: National Federation of State High School Associations. She graduated Indiana University with a B.S. in Medical Imaging Technology and an A.S. in Radiography. She has been a board-certified Ultrasound Technologist for the last twenty years.
There is much more than swimming in Jenny Smith’s life. She and her husband Will and their two sons Max, a junior at Baylor School, and Zane, a Freshman at Baylor School, enjoy traveling, boating, tennis, hiking, climbing, entertaining, and live music. Her days are always different, juggling three part-time jobs, training, and taking care of their home, her roses, and three dogs. Her mornings start early as she leaves to coach master swimming at Baylor, where she coaches adults with different goals and all abilities. Jenny is a Level 3 USMS certified Master Swim Coach. She is also an Open Water Swimming Coach and has swimmer that also has the dream to swim the English Channel. Jenny has been studying yoga for 20 years, teaching yoga and meditation at UTC. She plays competitive tennis, she enjoys wake skating, water skiing, stand up paddle board, cycling, cooking, and playing ping pong with her family in their courtyard. But for her “being in
the water is where I feel most at home, being part of everything and nothing.”