HUMANA Hero: Sue McCarthy, 53, South Portland, Maine
Spectators and the media frequently spend more time lauding the accomplishments of our oldest athletes, and they are truly worthy of the attention. On the other hand, there are also equally impressive performances in the youngest sport age divisions.
Case in point: Maine sprinter Sue McCarthy, whose first appearance at the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana produced five gold medals, including the 50, 100, 200 and 400 meter races, plus the 4x100 relay. The individual sprint times all landed Sue in NSGA’s all-time Top Ten Performance lists, including #1 in the 50 meter and #2 in the 400 meter races.
That’s just part of her blazing track year. “In 2015 I met almost all of my goals,” she says. “I ended up with nine national titles in all, so to be able to stay spot-on and keep my focus was incredible.” Her other conquests came from events in USA Track & Field indoor and outdoor national masters championships. The organization recognized her as a 2015 Athlete of the Year for the 50-54 age group.
Running has long been a part of Sue’s life, although she almost didn’t take her talent to the track. “In junior high I wanted no part of competition because I had never done it before,” she recalls. “When I didn’t make the softball team in high school, I ended up backing into track.” With a laugh she adds, “The rest is history, I guess.”
Sue proceeded to set high school records, and was a four-time NCAA Division III All-American with SUNY-Cortland and Stony Brook University. “After college, I lost having a track venue, so I started doing road races,” she continues. “I only got back into track at 46 doing masters and corporate track events. I turned some heads, and then got on a team. When I turned 50, I was able to join the big kid’s table in Senior Games too.”
College also produced a career as a psychotherapist for Sue, who is currently with a community mental health center. Does she feel that her profession helps get her mentally prepared for competition? “Oh sure. Being active produces chemicals in your brain that influence a positive upswing in mood, reduces depression, and increases your energy levels,” she explains. “Your mind and body both benefit in a healthy way from athleticism. In addition, there is a spirituality involved, connecting with like-minded people and being supported by your friends who compete with you. It is quite a bond, a celebration of life. There's nothing better.”
Even at her age, Sue says people already continually approach her to say what an inspiration she is for them. “It seems to happen over and over,” she adds. “I am proud to say I live a happy, clean and healthy lifestyle, and I believe my life purpose is to motivate and inspire people to be healthy as well.”
The speedster is grateful to see a future full of more races and goals. “It’s a wonderful perspective to think this is here for me as long for as I want to do it.”