Margaret Rivard Youngest Catalina Channel Swimmer

Margaret Rivard Youngest Catalina Channel Swimmer

Margaret Rivard became the youngest Catalina Channel swimmer since Andy Taylor in 1971 when she completed a 32.3 km crossing of the Catalina Channel from Santa Catalina Island to the Southern California mainland in 14 hours 8 minutes 31 seconds on August 26th 2021.

Margaret Rivard getting ready to jump into the Pacific Ocean being photographed by her sister Vera Rivard

50 years ago, almost to the day, four local swimmers – Lynne Cox, Andy Taylor, Dennis Sullivan and Stacey Fresonke – completed a 12 hour 34 minute four-person tandem swim across the Catalina Channel from Santa Catalina Island to the Southern California mainland.

Coached by Ron Blackledge, the quartet was young. Taylor was only 12 years old while his three teammates – Cox, Sullivan and Fresonke were all 14 years old. It had been seven long years between the last Catalina Channel (by in 1964) before Coach Blackledge led his four young swimmers from island shore to mainland shore. The swimmers and coach were honored by “A Resolution Of The City Council Of The City Of Seal Beach, California, Commending Seal Beach Youth Swimmers For Their Completion Of A Marathon Swim From Catalina Island To The Mainland.”

As Penny Dean describes in her book, A History of the Catalina Channel Swims Since 1927, “[The] four teenage swimmers represented the Seal Beach Swim Club. As Lynne later remarked, ‘That wasn’t too good, but the idea was just to finish. I kept pulling away from everyone and they’d slow me down to let the others catch up.’ The time, however, was quick enough to set a men’s record, breaking Tom Park’s 1954 record of 13 hours, 25 minutes. Fresonke and Taylor both set records for being the youngest to cross the Channel.

But youth has returned to the channel after five decades.

The Catalina Channel Swimming Federation announced, “Today as she climbed ashore the mainland of California, 14-year-old Margaret Rivard broke an age record that stood for half a century as she became the youngest woman to swim the Catalina Channel. The record was previously held by Stacey Fresonke Juler of Seal Beach, California. In 1971 Juler was 14 years and 132 days old when she swam the channel. Rivard is approximately one month younger. Margaret swam strong and steady throughout the night. She had winds of 5-7 knots which increased to 8-10 knots as she neared the end of her swim. The salt irritated her mouth and caused her lips and tongue to swell, and her throat to itch. Despite the discomfort she continued her swim.

Team Rivard (Mom Darci DeBlois-Rivard, Dad Kevin Rivard, and older swimming sister Vera Rivard) cheered Margaret on from the Bottom Scratcher. Jax Cole and Monica Bender provided kayak support. CCSF president Forrest Nelson and Rebecca Nevitt were official CCSF observers. Congratulations Margaret on your amazing achievement. You are an inspirational young woman, and we can’t wait to see what you do next!

Rivard was officially 14 years and 94 days old at the time of her crossing.

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Steven Munatones