Even at 100, still making a splash

from the richmond times-dispatch

After swimming the 50-meter freestyle Sunday morning, Marie Kelleher climbed out of the pool, posed for a few pictures — she was like a celebrity, so many people wanted to put their arms around her and smile for a camera — and eventually pulled on some dry clothes.

Once she had run the gauntlet of well-wishers, I asked if she felt good during the race.

"No," she said with a laugh, "but I finished."

Finish, she did — and set a national record, which is pretty much what she does every time she swims a race since she recently ascended into an age group where there isn't a lot of competition. She turned 100 in December.

Still, Sunday's swim at the steamy NOVA of Virginia Aquatic Center in the David Gregg III Memorial Meet, the Virginia Masters Swim Team's annual winter meet for swimmers ages 18 to 100-plus, was something of a milestone. It was Kelleher's first race since she turned 100, and also her first since she experienced what she discreetly referred to as "this problem."

By this problem, she meant a stroke, and I don't mean the butterfly.

After swimming one morning in early November, she was having breakfast when she discovered she couldn't pick up a spoon. She phoned one of her sons, and her speech was slurred, so he hustled to her Glen Allen home and took her to the hospital.

She was fortunate, she said, the stroke was a mild one.