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Sonoma native qualifies for triathlete World Championships

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With a 20K bike ride and 5K run still in front of her, and a recent knee surgery behind her, 74-year-old Mary Ann Bogart was only thinking of one thing: “I just have to beat Ruth Hamilton.”

Not only did Bogart beat Hamilton, but she took the bronze for her age group (females, 70-74) at this year’s USA Sprint Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. Now she’s qualified to represent the USA in next year’s World Championships in Switzerland.

Bogart, a Sonoma native now residing in Los Altos, has been competing in sports her entire life, despite there being no competitive sports for women at Sonoma Valley High School in 1959. The only program at the time was the Girl’s Athletic Association (GAA), which Bogart compared to after-school intermural games.

“There was no competition, no incentive, no women’s scholarships back then … It was all for the love of sport,” Bogart said. “I feel fortunate because I’ve coached a lot, and so many gals feel tremendous pressure when they’re under scholarship to maintain that scholarship, and they feel like they can’t have a balanced life because there’s so much pressure to win. Everything is about winning.”

After high school, two of Bogart’s teachers, Cathy Cain and Barbara Sherman, pushed her into pursuing a physical education major, which she did at UC Davis. It was there she joined varsity sports like tennis, basketball, field hockey and volleyball.

After college, Bogart got married and had kids, but still competed in travel and local competitions.

“I played in the same era as Billy Jean King. When Title IX happened, after I got married, all of the sudden you no longer got a trophy or a silver tray, you actually won money,” Bogart said. “I missed that window and you always wonder how far you could’ve made it. But I don’t regret it because I raised a family and got the best of both worlds, just with no money.”

Because of that missed window, Bogart made her career as a high school and college PE teacher around Northern California, even coaching high school tennis. She sees a big difference from when she was in school, when an athletic woman wasn’t ordinary.

“I would come in from practice, totally sweaty, and no one understood, and would be like why do you like to do that? It was interesting times, it wasn’t the norm, and I look at these gals now, and they’re strong, so athletic, so strong, and so impressive … They’re doing it the right way,” Bogart said.

Not only did Bogart stay fit for her job, but she continued running in her free time until her hip gave her some trouble. Then Bogart took up biking, and competed in races for 35 years.

With this athletic history, Bogart joined her cousin, another serious triathlete, when she invited her to a sprint triathlon about 15 years ago, the Tri for Real in Pleasanton.

“What a surprise when they called my name during the award ceremony – first place, gold medal,” Bogart said. “Well, I had to confess to my husband, daughters and grandkids that I was the only woman in that division.”

She took a hiatus from triathlons because of health issues, and eventually had a hip replacement in 2013. Still, she accepted when her cousin invited her to the 2016 Sprint Triathlon National Championships in New Orleans, where she placed first and represented the U.S. in the 2017 World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

During her training for World Championships, she tore the meniscus in her left knee, which required surgery in March 2017. She didn’t feel 100 percent in Rotterdam and placed ninth in her age group. Still, the experience fired her up for next year.

“(I) came back with a tremendous appreciation of how many talented, dedicated older athletes that are still pushing themselves to the limit,” Bogart said.

So she did, despite an unexpected weather occurrence which canceled the swim portion, instead making it a 2.5-mile run, 20K bike, then 2.5-mile run. The run was tough on her knees, and she struggled at first until she saw Hamilton, 71, who got bronze in Rotterdam.

“I said, ‘My goal is just to pass her, just pass Ruth Hamilton,’” Bogart said. “I went faster and faster and I passed her and never saw her again. It just goes to show, don’t worry about the end result, don’t worry about what your time is, just pick one goal.”

Bogart hopes to compete in the World Championships next year but knows anything can happen in a year.

“All my friends, who are in their mid-70s, can’t believe why I’m doing this, but I get so much enjoyment out of pushing myself to my limit,” Bogart said. “I don’t push myself like that just to make a big impression, but because it just brings such satisfaction to me to know that I pushed myself to that most possible point that I could.”

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