Meet Results

Marie Kelleher Breaks Barrier

Richmonder sets 2 national records in 100-104 age group

Richmond, VA —  May 12, 2012–
By Dave Holland

Leaving a swim meet this afternoon at the Tuckahoe YMCA, I found myself walking out the door with Marie Kelleher.  As we walked to her car, we fell into the usual friendly banter about swim meets and times.  “How did you feel in the water today?”, I casually asked.

“Oh, you know how it is, some days you feel good in the water and some days you don’t.  Today wasn’t really my best, but I’m not complaining.  I’ve been very fortunate.”

In many respects, Kelleher is no different than many of the other 50-plus adults who competed at the Virginia Senior Games this weekend.  She drives her own car, swims four days per week at 5am (she takes Wednesdays off), and competes in meets that are close to home.  Swimming today in the 50 and 100 free, she stood on the starting block and wore a white cap with an American flag.

To the casual observer, she didn’t appear to be racing.  Swimming in lane 3 in the 100 free, the two women on either side beat her easily, and waited graciously as she finished in 3 minutes, 40 seconds.  The woman in lane 2 reached across the lane line and exchanged a high-five with her.  Typical masters swim meet, right?

A look at the official results told a different story.  Kelleher’s age is listed as 100 in the heat sheet and the results.  Although she’s actually only 99 until her birthday in December, at this meet she competed in the 100-104 age group, as USMS rules use the swimmer’s age as of December 31 for competitions held in 25-meter courses.

Kelleher, representing Virginia Masters Swim Team, established new United States Masters Swimming (USMS) national records in the 50 free (1:44.10) and 100 free (3:40.00).  As there are currently no USMS records listed in the books for the female 100-104 age group for any course, she becomes the oldest known American woman to have competed at a USMS-recognized meet.

On the global stage, an Australian woman named Mary Maina is the oldest known woman to have competed.  Maina, competing at the 1994 World Masters Games in Brisbane just two weeks after her 101st birthday, swam the 50 free (long course meters) in 5:10.84.

With today’s performance, Kelleher might be the oldest woman ever to have competed in the 100 free, in any pool, anywhere.  But that wasn’t really on her mind as she got into her car to head home after another swim at the YMCA.  “I have a birthday in December, and I have to get my driver’s license renewed.  I wonder what they’ll say to me?”


22 Responses to “Marie Kelleher Breaks Barrier”


    Posted by ARMANDO | 05/13/2012, 1:18 pm

    Posted by Brandon Colvin | 05/13/2012, 1:58 pm
  3. Just curious would she have also held the record in 95-99 age group since she is really 99. And yes it’s inspiring and my goal in life is to swim in the 100-104 age group and be an active granny instead of wasting away in my rocking chair 😉

    Posted by Laurie mcknight | 05/13/2012, 9:47 pm
  4. She’s an inspiration! Seriously impressive!

    Posted by AliKane | 05/14/2012, 3:00 pm
  5. Way to go Nana!

    Posted by Kathleen Kelleher Hornik | 05/15/2012, 4:14 pm
  6. So proud of you, Mother!! You truly are an inspiration to all your grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

    Posted by Johana Kelleher Hoofnagle | 05/15/2012, 5:28 pm
  7. Mom:
    Your records reflect your natural life style and outstanding example for us to try to emulate.
    Love from the pool deck and beyond,
    Maria and Joe

    Posted by Maria and Joe Kelleher | 05/16/2012, 10:08 am
  8. Mrs. Kelleher,
    You are terrific! As great as they are, your swimming exploits may be the least of your many wonderful accomplishments and characteristics.
    Ed & Pam

    Posted by Ed Hamilton | 05/16/2012, 4:35 pm
    • Pam, Ed

      If you are the Hamiltons I used to know back in 1977 when we worked together at Camp Easter Seal I would just like to say hello and wish you both well. If you aren’t, then please forgive me this note.

      With love

      Andy x

      Posted by Andy Booth | 07/18/2012, 8:06 am
  9. Dear Marie,I am a youngster at 81 and am planning to follow in your wake. What an inspitarion you are to all of us, young and old. Just tell me what your diet is!!! Joan Waldbaum

    Posted by joan b. waldbaum | 05/25/2012, 4:56 pm
  10. This story is inspiring. No matter how old you are, as long as you can do youth-like activities, go on! Age couldn’t stop us from getting more medals.

    Posted by Millo | 05/31/2012, 6:09 am
  11. Way to go Aunt Marie! You were the talk of a recent May family reunion. We saw you in the June 11 Sports Illustrated. Truly an inspiration.

    Posted by Jim and Rita Mauck | 06/11/2012, 9:53 am
  12. Absolutely awesome Aunt Marie! I keep swimming because of you and your statement to me about pain………..”you just keep swimming”!

    Posted by Patty May | 06/11/2012, 7:31 pm
  13. Congratulations, Aunt Marie,
    I shared your story at our friend’s 65th birthday party and everyone sends their bravos and thank yous for the inspiration. Love you.

    Posted by Kathy & John Long | 06/20/2012, 1:35 pm
  14. Wow I am jealous of her spunk, I want to just like Marie. You are fabulous.

    Posted by June H Booth | 07/06/2012, 5:47 pm
  15. I have been hearing about you for years. I loved the article. Yes, indeed you are an amazing woman. I shared it on my Facebook page . My goal is to live past 100 and also be setting goals. I am just a youngster ar 62. This year have competed in 5 triathlons. Thank you!

    Posted by Patricia Richard | 08/29/2012, 5:52 pm
  16. Too amazing for words!

    Posted by Shannon | 03/17/2013, 10:46 pm


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