Name: Valerie Jenkins
Occupation: Retired Sales Leader, Grainger Industrial Supply
The sport of swimming has shaped and influenced who I am as a person from a young age. From an early understanding of goal setting and hard work, then building the values of teamwork and leadership, swimming has shaped me as a student, a business professional and as a person. I love that swimming is both an individual and team sport. I race the clock and try to better my personal bests, but especially enjoy training and racing with my teammates. Swimming has blessed me with amazing coaches, teammates and supporters throughout all phases of my life.
Friends of our family often said swimming was genetic in our household. My father had been a lifeguard, and thus understood the importance of teaching his three daughters how to swim for safety reasons. I learned how to swim in my hometown’s man-made pond in New Canaan, CT. I was 4 or 5 when my mom took us there for our summer swim lessons in the cool mornings. That led to swim lessons at our local YMCA and progressing through their program.
I started competing at age 9 on the YMCA swim team – following the footsteps of my eldest sister, Cheryl. My middle sister, Janice, soon joined as well. I was also involved in diving and gymnastics, and by middle school, my parents said I needed to choose one. I chose swimming, and am thankful I did!
My swimming career grew from the YMCA to one of the top AAU clubs in the state, the Sharks Swim Team, to High School Swimming, and then at Brown University in Rhode Island. My AAU and college coaches were strict, but they understood how to help us achieve our goals. I am fortunate that swimming gave me the opportunity to travel throughout the country for competition and training trips. I swam for 4 years at Brown, and then hung up my suit for 3 years post college when I took advantage of living in Upstate NY and started skiing and enjoying other sports.
A move back to CT in the late 1980s led me back to the pool again – this time with my first Masters team at another YMCA. I quickly became friends with this multi-generational group. From bagels at the local deli after Saturday morning workouts, to fun holiday parties, to dancing at each other’s weddings, this group was a family. My Connecticut Masters team holds a special place in my heart.
I left Connecticut again to go back to grad school outside of Chicago at Northwestern University. I wasn’t competing, just swimming for fitness. New jobs then took me to Dallas, Texas, and back to Connecticut again. Cycling and skiing were my sports at that time. Fast forward a few years, and I moved to Oregon in 1998 for another new job after falling in love with the PNW while on a cycling vacation. I joined a ski club as well as Portland Masters Swimming (PMS). I met my husband, Jim, at the ski club, and then he joined me at Masters swim workouts as well. Jim continues with his focus on fitness and competes in a couple of meets or open water swims each year.
I am most proud of swimming for the Oregon LMSC at National and World Championships. My most memorable experiences are by far those shared with my relay mates – Arlene Delmage, Colette Crabbe and Karen Andrus-Hughes. We are great friends both in and out of the water, and they have especially helped me through the past few years with different injuries and surgeries. I also had the opportunity to swim on a winning family relay with my sister Janice (North Carolina), niece Meghan (a year after she competed at Olympic Trials), and Oregon teammate Jill Asch at Mission Viejo LCM Nationals in 2013.
I am now 18 months post Achilles repair surgery, and happy to say I’ve been able to focus on my health the past year. Jim and I also enjoy hiking and I often walk on off-swim days. As I write this, all the pools are closed due to COVID-19, so I am adding a stair stepper workout for cardio.
Jim and I love to spend time at the Oregon Coast where we remodeled a fixer upper cabin 5 years ago. We have had three wonderful Golden Retriever beach dogs in our lives – Maggie, Chelsea and Paige. All three have passed, so we recently added a new golden puppy, Laci, to our family. We are excited to have her and are looking forward to many beach walks!
Professionally, I am embarking on my encore career/sabbatical/retirement. I am a senior sales leader, so I am currently enjoying volunteering as a mentor at Washington State University – Vancouver, Carson School of Business. I am taking time this year to evaluate what the next chapter looks like. What I know for sure, is that Masters Swimming and my swimming family will be a significant part of it!