Mary Ann Bogart may be 75 years old, but she shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The longtime Los Altos resident placed first in her division (women 75-79) at last month’s USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Cleveland. That qualified her to represent Team USA at the ITU Draft-Legal Sprint-Distance World Championships next year in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
In Cleveland, Bogart competed in the sprint triathlon race, a short-distance triathlon in which each section covers approximately half the distance of an Olympic triathlon. She finished in 1 hour, 38 minutes and 34 seconds (17:49 swim, 42:56 bike and 30:43 run).
This marked only the third time Bogart competed in the annual race. She entered her first triathlon – the Tri for Real in Pleasanton – at age 62, encouraged by her cousin. Bogart said she surprisingly won her division.
Over a decade later, after concentrating on biking and recovering from a hip replacement, Bogart revived her interest in triathlons. After placing first in a qualifying race for her age group, she started training for the 2017 World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands. But approximately eight months before the race, Bogart tore the meniscus in her left knee and had to undergo surgery. Despite not being 100% for the world championships, she still competed – and placed ninth in her division.
“I came back with a tremendous appreciation of how many talented, dedicated older women athletes there are who are still pushing themselves to the limits,” she said. “I was motivated, and I loved the competition.”
Third in last year’s national championships, Bogart climbed to first place after training harder and getting in better shape, she said. Yet the result still surprised her.
“I knew I had pushed as hard as I could but was quite shocked to learn I had come in first,” she said. “I had trained hard, remained relaxed and 100% focused throughout the entire race, and it had paid off.”
She found the experience extremely rewarding.
“As I stood on the podium, it is very hard to explain the feeling of joy and gratitude I felt to have received a gold medal and to have been given the opportunity to compete,” Bogart said. “When I was growing up, I never dreamed there would be opportunities available for older adults to compete at high levels.”
Bogart’s passion for sports and competition extends back to her early childhood.
“From the time I can remember, I wanted to throw, bat, run, compete,” she said.
At the time, women’s sports were not prevalent, but Bogart began taking tennis lessons and entered tournaments as a pre-teen, she said, in part due to encouragement from her parents.
“Girls were not encouraged to be athletes then, but I was very fortunate. My parents somehow sensed my desire and need to compete,” she said.
However, Bogart experienced a lull in competition during her high school years. Her family moved to Sonoma at the end of her freshman year, and her new high school did not have a varsity girls tennis team.
“I stopped traveling to tennis tournaments and relied on hitting balls on the garage door or the side of a school building,” she said.
By the time Bogart entered college at UC Davis, she witnessed a “time of tremendous change and growth in women’s sports.” Women’s college sports were beginning to receive funding to travel around the state for competitions, among other advancements, and she joined the tennis, basketball, volleyball and field hockey teams at Davis.
Although that was before Title IX – a federal law enacted in 1972 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity funded by the government – it “was an exciting time to be an athlete. … I did not have to deal with the pressure of maintaining a scholarship, the importance of winning above all else, or the worry of how much money I would make someday,” Bogart said. “And I was still able to gain many of the lifelong benefits one can receive by competing. … How fortunate I was to compete for the pure love of sport.”
After graduating from Davis in 1966, Bogart continued her passion for sports as she got married and raised a family. In addition to working as a high school physical education teacher, she played in tennis tournaments and took up running and biking.
While Bogart still enjoys competing, she’s unsure about traveling to Edmonton in August for the world championships. She doesn’t like to look that far ahead, she said, because “at my age, I realize it is better to live in the moment – take one day at a time.”