MSO Hall of Famer Helen Schley Dies
We’re saddened to report that Maryland Senior Olympics Hall of Famer Helen Schley of Myersville passed away Thursday, Sept. 29, at age 95. Over five decades, she was one of our biggest advocates, promoting senior wellness and fitness on the local, state, and national levels through her experiences as a recreational and competitive runner.
When she participated in her first MSO in the late 1980s, Mrs. Schley was already a Frederick County legend for her years as a basketball and field hockey coach, mainly at Middletown High. She played a significant role in girls’ sports returning to Frederick County public schools in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Then, she helped transition county girls’ basketball from the old six-player game to the contemporary five-player standard in the ’60s.
Mrs. Schley and her fellow county girls’ coaches fought for equality well into their retirements, including simple matters such as updated uniforms and local media coverage. So, she was a natural for our Board of Commissioners, where she served during MSO transitions from Towson to Montgomery County to Baltimore City and back to Montgomery.
She was also inspirational.
A physical education teacher, she didn’t take up running until she was in her early 60s. She started with power walking, graduated to local 5k races, added Masters events, hired a personal trainer, and began traveling around the country to compete. Well into her 80s, Mrs. Schley was setting records in the 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter runs—and won many medals.
She’s held numerous age group records for MSO through the years, but, oddly, the one mark she still owns came in 1988, when she set a record of 11:04.06 in the women’s age 60-64 1,500-meter power race walk. That’s the second-oldest record in our books.
Mrs. Schley became a regular at the National Senior Games in 1991 and participated in 10 Nationals, the last in 2013 at Cleveland. She went out in glory, capturing golds in the age 85-89 400- and 800-meter runs. Overall, she won 11 National Games medals—two golds and a bronze in the 400-meters, three golds and two bronzes in the 800, and three bronzes in the 1,500. She also had three fourth-place finishes.
At age 81, we inducted Mrs. Schley into the MSO Hall of Fame in 2008 as part of our fourth class.
She died peacefully after a bout with cancer. Her courage and determination to the end reminded us of a quote she made to the Frederick News-Post in 2001:
“Even when I don’t feel like running, I always get up and go,” she said, a nod to her stretching and yoga. “Get out of that chair and get moving.”
We send our condolences to Mrs. Schley’s family and many friends. In addition, we sincerely appreciate her long and storied participation and advocacy for the Maryland Senior Olympics.