Local senior athletes bring home the gold

Hunter Herbaugh
Thursday, September 23, 2021
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Rita Hanley (left) and Brenda Frelsi (right) competed in the Montana Senior Olympics in Missoula recently. Both won gold metals in multiple events and Frelsi even broke records in several. Submitted photo

Two local senior athletes attended the recent State Senior Olympics where they both won gold and one broke some records. The state senior Olympics were held in Missoula between September 9 and September 11, attracting locals Brenda Frelsi and Rita Hanley to compete.

Hanley competed in two race walking events and won gold medals in both while Frelsi competed in several track-and-field events, winning seven golds and managing to break records in the long jump, triple jump, 50 meter dash, 100 meter dash and 200 meter dash. For both of them, this was the first time they competed at a senior Olympics event in Montana.


Hanley has never competed in a senior Olympics before. She was convinced to participate this year though by Frelsi, who noticed that she generally walked fast anyway and convinced her to try competing. Though she was the only competitor in her age group, she said she was still happy to have had the experience.

“When I walk, she said I walk really fast and she said, ‘I think you can do this,’ and I just thought, ‘Oh yeah, I can do this.’ It’s a bit outside my comfort zone but I thought I could do it, it’ll be fun,” she said.

The biggest surprise to Hanley, she said, was that there is a certain method to race walking that competitors have to follow. While she said the judges were initially forgiving towards her for not knowing how to walk appropriately, she added that they got a bit more strict on the second day of the competition, but she managed to walk 2,500 meters correctly without getting disqualified.

Frelsi, meanwhile, has been an active senior athlete for several years, however she didn’t get to compete in the Montana Olympics in 2020 after moving to Glendive due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she wasn’t aiming to break records, but was excited to learn that she had.

“I always find out what the records are and use those as incentives to try hard, but it doesn’t ever occur to me that I’ll ever break one,” she said.

In fact, she explained that the senior Olympics is the big event she works up to every year and while the competition itself is fun, she said what she really enjoys is seeing all of the people who come to compete despite their age.

“The biggest thing, for me, is I enjoy the people there. It’s so much fun to see people 50 and over just competing and seeing how healthy they are. One woman who did as many events as I did was in her early 80’s, it was really cool to watch,” Frelsi said.

Aside from having the satisfaction of breaking records, Frelsi said her performance also qualified her for the national senior Olympics, which will take place in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in May. This will actually be the fifth time she has competed in the national competition but it will be the first time she is doing it for Montana.

Right now though, she is resting and relaxing but will start preparing for the next competition soon.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.