Penny Dean

From Openwaterpedia
Members of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation at the induction ceremonies at the United Nations in June 2011 with Dr. Penny Dean on far right together with Dale Petranech, John York, Linda Bamford, Paula Selby, David Clark and Carol Sing. Photo by Skip Storch
USA Swimming Team at the 1982 World Cup in Lake Windermere with coach Penny Dean, Cindy Patterson, and Steven Munatones
Dr. Penny Lee Dean
Penny Dean with Jay Wilkerson, coach Flip Darr, Chad Hundeby, Martha Jahn, Karen Burton, Dirk Bouma, Sid Cassidy and coach John York as part of the record-setting English Channel relay that set three English Channel relay records: 6 hours 52 minutes on their first leg (England-to-France), 7 hours 26 minutes on their second leg (France-to-England), and the fastest overall and fastest 2-way relay (England-to-France-to-England) in 14 hours 18 minutes in 1990
Just Try One More, autobiography of Penny Lee Dean
Influential Book Written By Dr. Penny Lee Dean

Penny Lee Dean Ed.D. ((born March 21, 1955) was a former American collegiate swimmer, marathon swimmer, coach, author, and administrator who is one of history's greatest channel swimmers.



USA Long Distance International Championships

She helped organize the 1984 USA Long Distance International Championships which was the first race across the Catalina Channel since the Wrigley Ocean Marathon in 1927. Along with Siga Albrecht and Syndi Goldenson, she also coached the American team to victory with John York and Carol Lee Heltzel winning.

English Channel Relay Records

Dean was the head coach of the record-setting English Channel relay of Jay Wilkerson, Chad Hundeby, Martha Jahn, Karen Burton, Sid Cassidy, and Dirk Bouma. The USA Swimming national open water team members set three English Channel relay records: 6 hours 52 minutes on their first leg (England-to-France), 7 hours 26 minutes on their second leg (France-to-England), and the fastest overall and fastest 2-way relay (England-to-France-to-England) in 14 hours 18 minutes in 1990. The team was also coached by John York.

Fastest English Channel Crossings in History

1. 6:45 by Andreas Waschburger, Germany, E-F in September 2023
2. 6:55 by Trent Grimsey, Australia, E-F in September 2012
3. 6:57 by Petar Stoychev, Bulgaria, E-F in August 2007
4. 7:03 by Christof Wandratsch, Germany, E-F in August 2005
5. 7:05 by Yuri Kudinov, Russia, E-F in August 2007
6. 7:16 by Vitek Rostislav, Czech Republic, E-F in August 2009
7. 7:17 by Chad Hundeby, USA, E-F in September 1994
8. 7:20 by Christof Wandratsch, Germany, E-F in August 2003
9. 7:21 by Petar Stoychev, Bulgaria, E-F in August 2006
10. 7:22 by David Meca, Spain, E-F in August 2005
11. 7:25 by Yvetta Hlavacova, Czech Republic, E-F in August 2006
12. 7:40 by Penny Lee Dean, USA, E-F in July 1978

Fastest Catalina Channel Crossings in History

1. 7:15 by Penny Lee Dean, USA, MC in September 1976
2. 7:27 by Grace van der Byl, USA, CM in October 2012
3. 7:37 by Pete Huisveld, USA, MC in August 1992
4. 7:41 by John York, USA, MC in September 1978 (first leg of a 2-way)
5. 7:43 by Karen Burton, USA, CM in October 1994
6. 8:05 by Todd Robinson, USA, CM in August 2009
7. 8:07:03 by Hank Wise, USA, CM in October 2010
8. 8:07:37 by Hank Wise, USA, MC in June 2015
9. 8:14 by Chad Hundeby, USA, CM in September 1993
10. 8:20 by Gemma Jensen, Australia, CM in August 2006
11. 8:27 by Jim McConica, USA, CM in October 1983
12. 8:28 by Rendy Lynn Opdycke, USA, CM in August 2008
13. 8:31 by John York, USA, MC in October 1977
14. 8:32 by John York, USA, CM in October 2000


Dean authored the following books:

Penny Lee Dean on Open Water Wednesday

International Swimming Hall of Fame Biography

FOR THE RECORD: 1978 Established English Channel crossing record (England to France, 7 hrs. 40 min.); 1979 Professional Marathon Swimming Circuit (Women's World Champion); four Catalina Channel crossings (1976-1977); 12 WORLD RECORDS; Head Coach: U.S. National Long Distance team (1984-1988); Head Women's Swimming and Water Polo Coach: Pomona College since 1979.

When she was ten years old, she came within 400 meters of swimming the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. But tired and with the water a frigid 52 degrees Fahrenheit and the escort boat an arms reach away, Penny Dean made a decision that would determine the course of her life for the next thirteen years and make Marathon swimming history - she got out. It was an understandable decision for a ten year old, but once on shore she mistook her mother's look of guilt that she had pushed her daughter too hard and into failure, as a look of disappointment. She had let pain and fatigue distract her from her goal, and she vowed never to let that happen again. From that summer day in 1965, Penny Dean embarked on a challenging course that thirteen years later would lead to one of the greatest marathon swims in history.

She had a head start - she had been swimming since the age of 20 months in both San Francisco and Santa Clara - hot beds for swimming in California. She competed in AAU swimming for seventeen years in both pool Nationals and Long Distance Open Water Nationals, winning the Three Mile National Championship in 1971. As a swimmer for Pomona College, she was a six-time All-American. By 1976, she swam from the mainland of California to Catalina Island in the overall world record of 7 hours, 15 minutes 55 seconds - 1 and 1/2 hours under the former record. The next year she set the world record from the island to the mainland on her way to a 50 mile double crossing of the Catalina Channel in 20 hours and 3 minutes. These swims set the stage for her greatest challenge.

Tennis players have Wimbledon; runners have the Boston Marathon; swimmers have the English Channel. Penny not only wanted to be amongst the successful eighteen percent of swimmers who actually complete the English Channel, she wanted to break all the records. The water was 55 degrees, the tides were challenging and the channel is vast to the lone swimmer. A core of inner toughness kept her swimming, and a remarkable 7 hours, 40 minutes after she left England, her toes scraped against the sand of the French coast with a greeting committee of a few shocked shell hunters. Her time broke the world record by 1 hour and 5 minutes and was so impressive that it took another sixteen years before Chad Hundeby broke her record in September of 1995. Penny proved once again that women can swim faster and longer than men in Marathon Swimming.

She continued her long distance swimming career for another three years, winning at Windermere in England, Lake St. John, LaTugue, Lakes Memphremagog and Paspebiac in Quebec, and Atlantic City in New Jersey, setting women's world records in most of them. She was Women's World Professional Champion in 1979 accumulating 1,000 points over her next rival.

Penny became a Professor of Education and Head Swimming Coach at Pomona College, but not before serving as the U.S. National Team Coach of Open Water Swimming from 1988 through 1991, Head Coach of U.S. teams to the 1991 Pan Pacific Championships, 1991 World Championships, 1982 and 1990 Windermere Championships, 1990 English Channel Race, 1984 and 1989 Catalina Channel Race and coach of nine solo Catalina Channel crossers. She was president of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America from 1985 to 1987 and served on the NCAA Swimming Committee. She has presented numerous international clinics on marathon and open water swimming, written articles for swimming publications and authored "How to Swim a Marathon," with printings in 1985, 1988 and 1992, and "History of the Catalina Swims," revised four times since 1985.

Penny has been a pathfinder in her swimming career. Studying law, she receives her Ph.D. in 1996. She stands as the tallest and proudest five-foot-two inch, 125 pound marathon swimmer the world has known. What the world did not know was that she swam her way to victory with no anterior artery blood supply to her left arm. She used the other part of her body for that - her guts.


  • Ed.D. Education, Sports management at US Sports Academy 1996, honors "An Analysis of Pomona College Women's Intercollegiate Athletics, May 1996, University of Michigan"
  • Red Cross Certifications: Coaches Safety Training, WSI, First Aid, CPR for Professional Rescuers, Life guarding and AEP
  • ASCA Level 4 Coaching Certification
  • USA Water Polo Level 3 Coaching Certification
  • M.S., Physical Education, Cal Poly Pomona, 1980, honors
  • B.A., History, Pomona College, 1977, cum laude

25e Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean

On 29 July 1979, she finished 5th and was the first woman in the 32 km Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean professional marathon swim in 21°C water in Quebec, Canada:

1. John Kinsella (USA) 7 hours 1 minutes 15 seconds
2. Claudio Plit (Argentina) 7 hours 16 minutes 21 seconds
3. Bill Heiss (USA) 7 hours 26 minutes 15 seconds
4. Juan Carlos Mosqueda (Mexico) 7 hours 28 minutes 55 seconds
5. Penny Lee Dean (USA) 7 hours 34 minutes 41 seconds
6. Nasser El Shazly (Egypt) 7 hours 46 minutes 49 seconds
7. Jorge Villegas (Mexico) 7 hours 55 minutes 5 seconds
8. Alwi Makki (Saudi Arabia) 8 hours 2 minutes 49 seconds
9. Marawan Saleh (Syria) 8 hours 9 minutes 53 seconds
10. Raul Villagomez (Mexico) 8 hours 10 minutes 12 seconds
11. Magdy Mandour (Egypt) 8 hours 14 minutes 24 seconds and Maher Saleh (Syria) 8 hours 14 minutes 24 seconds
13. Alberto Santiago (Argentina) 8 hours 24 minutes 41 seconds
14. Christine Cossette (Canada) 8 hours 42 minutes 15 seconds
15. Ossama Rachad (Egypt) 8 hours 53 minutes 29 seconds
16. Loreen Passfield (Canada) 8 hours 56 minutes 59 seconds
17. Mona Aly Hossen (Egypt) 8 hours 59 minutes 38 seconds
18. Joke Van Staveren (Netherlands) 9 hours 0 minutes 12 seconds
OTL Ibrahim Moustafa Feidalla (Egypt, 10h4m15s), Anwar Saleh (Saudi Arabia, 10h13m56s), Rémi Meunier (Canada 11h29m45s) DNF Carlos Aguirre Argentina, 8h01m), Luis Prado Medel (Mexico, 5h40m), James Barry (USA, 4h30m)

1st Traversée Internationale du lac Memphrémagog

On 12 August 1979, she finished 5th and was the first woman in the Traversée Internationale du lac Memphrémagog in Quebec, Canada.

1. John Kinsella (USA)
2. Claudio Plit (Argentina) 10 hours 44 minutes
3. Jorge Villegas (Mexico)
4. Juan Carlos Tellez Mosqueda (Mexico)
5. Penny Lee Dean (USA) 11 hours 4 minutes - first woman
6. Nasser El-Shazly (Egypt)
7. Ossama Rashad (Egypt)
8. Joke Van Staveren (Netherlands)
DNF Mohamed Gamig (Canada)
DNF Sultan Kigab (Sudan)
DNF Jose Luis Prado Medel (Mexico)
DNF Loreen Passfield (Canada)
DNF Maher Saley (Syria)
DNF Marwan Saleh (Syria)

External links