Carol Smollen (inducted 2022)

Carol is a Wisconsin girl who spent her summers at the family cabin near Rhinelander. Her mother observed her love and fearlessness of the water, so she enrolled Carol in swimming lessons at the YMCA in Racine at around age five or six. The lessons were fun and easy for Carol, and she has hardly been out of the water since. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Carol continued to develop as a swimmer at the Racine YWCA.

In those days, before Title IX, there were few opportunities in school for young women in any kind of athletics. The YWCA, however, offered synchronized and competitive swimming for young girls. Carol wanted to participate in each sport, but the coach told Carol she could only participate in one. This was a difficult decision for Carol, but she chose synchronized swimming for its grace and challenges. She even helped choreograph routines for some of the synchro shows.

Carol, who experienced nerve damage and became hearing-impaired at age three, had a wonderful coach who provided her with the confidence to try to perform a solo to Ravel’s Bolero. She could not hear the music—only certain faint cues, if anything. She memorized the beats of the music and was able to perform her routine competitively; this accomplishment still gives Carol reasons to smile.

Having left pool competition to finish high school, complete some higher education, work, marry and raise children, Carol returned to the water in the mid 1990s to get back in to shape. She started to do freestyle-only workout laps at the Racine YWCA. She eventually decided to enter her first-ever individual swimming competition, choosing a challenging one-mile open water swim at Racine Quarry Lake Park, across the road from her home. That experience convinced her that she needed to improve her technique. Fortuitously, she met a swimmer at the meet who advised Carol to get involved in Wisconsin Masters Swimming.

At Carol's first Masters meet in Milwaukee, a woman named Ingrid Stine asked Carol to join a relay team. Carol had to age up to swim with the three other women, and this quartet went on to win medley and freestyle relays that won eight All-American titles. When asked if she had won any individual All-American titles, Carol said, “Not yet!”

In 2002, Carol moved to Elk River, MN and started competing with Minnesota Masters in 2003. In Minnesota, Carol competed in 62 meets and earned 50 state records, 26 individual Top Tens and 55 Relay Top Tens, with six of those relays qualifying for All-American status.

But Carol is more than just a fast pool swimmer: she swam the 2.1 mile open-water Point to LaPointe swims (from Bayfield to Madeline Island, WI) nine times and won her division five of those times. Carol has also participated in open water swims in Minneapolis.

Carol also likes water in the form of snow and is a member of the National Ski patrol, along with her husband, for 25 years. 


About Minnesota Masters Swimming

Minnesota Masters Swimming LMSC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to a healthy swimming lifestyle for adult swimmers within 87 counties in Minnesota and 3 in Western Wisconsin. It is the local governing body for United States Masters Swimming (USMS).

There are 1,172 registered swimmers in the Minnesota LMSC and over 60,000 nationwide. Anyone 18 years of age or older is eligible to join. No prior competitive swimming experience is necessary.

Minnesota Masters Contacts

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