'33 UMW Grad Kelleher Breaks Two National Records in Senior Masters Swim Meet

Richmonder sets 2 national records in 100-104 age group

Richmond, VA – 
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?”