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by Daniel Paulling

May 21, 2024

The Trotter Family YMCA member has volunteered for USMS for 42 years

Kris Wingenroth couldn’t believe what she heard.

The Gulf LMSC met earlier this month to celebrate members who had participated in a fitness event. But when Wingenroth walked into the room, longtime volunteer Karlene Denby made a major announcement: Wingenroth was receiving the Capt. Ransom J. Arthur MD Award.

“I never really expected to win,” says Wingenroth, 70, a member of Trotter Family YMCA in Houston. “She said I looked stunned. That’s a good, good description.

“I never saw myself being that top tier of Ransom Arthur recipients. Those all seemed like special people. I never personally put myself in that group.”

Perhaps Wingenroth’s receiving the award—USMS’s most prestigious volunteer award, one given annually to a volunteer who has done the most to further the objectives of the organization—shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.

She’s served USMS for 42 years. Her volunteerism began in 1982, and she’s held nearly every Gulf LMSC board role and has served extensively on the South Central Zone board.

On the national level, she’s an at-large director on USMS’s board of directors and the chair of the Elections Committee. She’s also on the Rules Committee, which she’s been a part of for 24 of the past 30 years, and she’s served on the Finance, Legislation, and Zone Committees, among others.

Denby, the Gulf LMSC’s treasurer, fitness chair, and newsletter writer/editor, began serving her LMSC about 15 years ago. She didn’t need long to realize the impact of Wingenroth, who received a USMS Dorothy Donnelly Award in 2003 and the South Central Zone Jesse Coon Award in 2020.

“I realized early on how active Kris was at all levels of USMS,” says Denby, a member of Houston Cougar Masters. “When researching and writing the nomination [of Wingenroth], I was stunned by the depth and longevity of her service. Kris was an obvious choice for the award.”

Wingenroth grew up swimming and was part of the first women’s swim teams at Rice University following the adoption of Title IX in 1972. After graduating, she quit swimming and became a teacher and youth swim coach.

She met the since-deceased Graham Johnston, an Olympian in 1952 for South Africa and longtime USMS member, a few years later. He persuaded her to join Masters Swimming in 1978 when she turned 25. (People couldn’t join Masters Swimming at the time until they were 25. The youngest age a member can join now is 18.)

Swimming with Johnston’s group helped her connect with longtime USMS volunteers Tom Boak and the since-deceased Hamilton and Mildred Anderson. The three were good role models. They all received the Capt. Ransom J. Arthur MD Award for their service to USMS.

Relying upon her background as a teacher, Wingenroth volunteered to write the Gulf LMSC’s bylaws in 1982. That would be her first act of volunteerism for USMS, which became a self-run organization that year.

She then began attending USMS’s convention and accepted her first national-level committee role, on the Finance Committee, in 1985. She joined the Rules Committee in 1994, a committee she’s still on today.

Despite volunteering so extensively at the national level, Wingenroth still serves the Gulf LMSC as its secretary.

“Kris has been invaluable to the Gulf LMSC from its inception,” Denby says. “There is not a single major issue that the LMSC tackles that is not bounced off Kris. Her decades of USMS knowledge and wisdom are an essential part of making our LMSC successful.

“The best part of volunteering with Kris is it seems that nothing seems to ruffle her feathers. Her calm demeanor keeps the LMSC board on track even on contentious issues.”

After Denby announced her friend’s being the recipient of the Capt. Ransom J. Arthur MD Award at their LMSC meeting, Wingenroth decided to give an impromptu speech. She decided to focus on what has been the best part of USMS for her.

“The best part of Masters swimming has been the people and meeting people I would never have met,” Wingenroth says. “People of all walks of life, careers, and parts of the country. It just broadens your perspective in your life so much.

“The whole concept of Masters swimming is incredible. Somebody was a genius out there.”


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