From DQ to Gold: Redemption for Grandma Ceil
Imagine the scene. It’s the 2013 National Senior Games presented by Humana in Cleveland, Ohio. Twenty-five family members from around the country, all in purple t-shirts, have come out to support you. Your grandchildren are wearing purple t-shirts that read, “Grandma Gone Crazy.” The finish line is in sight. You have just a few meters to go and then it happens. You’re disqualified.
Ceil Edrich, who was 85 at the time, was asked to leave the track. Edrich didn’t know what was happening. The finish line was right in front of her. Needless to say, The Games in 2013 were extremely disappointing for Edrich and her family. Race walk is a highly technical event, and disqualifications can and frequently do happen, Edrich understands this.
Now, it’s 2015, and in the first race walk event Tuesday, “Grandma Ceil” is pulled from the 1500 in another disqualification.. Edrich says, “I woke up about 1 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. I thought ‘Oh geez, I’ll get disqualified anyhow so I may as well stay home.’” But after a pep talk from family members, Edrich decided she had nothing to lose.
Edrich kept her cool and didn’t go crazy, but her family almost did in yesterday’s 5000 meter race. It was her last chance. The tension and anticipation rose as Edrich approached the finish line with two warnings in hand and one last field marshal to pass. Edrich glided by the field marshal, holding her form and victoriously crossed the finish line.
Edrich was quickly embraced by her family to celebrate the elusive gold medal. Way to go, “Grandma Ceil!”
Men’s Race Walk: Even the Role Models have Role Models
Alan Poisner is an 80-year-old race walking machine. The strider from Overland Park, Kansas has been president of his race walking club for the past twenty years. In 2011, he was named USA Track & Field National Race Walk Committee’s Race Walker of the Year for his 75-79 age division.
He was the favorite to take gold in the 80-84 division at The Games in Minnesota and he did not disappoint. Poisner stood atop the podium after Tuesday’s men’s 1,500 meter with a time of 09:49.290, and then took gold again yesterday in the 5,000 meter race, besting his next competitor by more than two minutes with a time of 35:09.
Who could he possibly look up to as a role model? Poisner points to a 98-year-old, gold medal winning race walker by the name of Jean Brunnenkant. “I have my own role model,” he said, noting that Brunnenkant has won gold in five different age divisions, ”I’ve now won them in two or three, so she is a role model for me.”
Poisner didn’t start race walking until age 50, saying he was an injured runner who took up race walking after meeting Debbie Laurence, a four-time Olympian who taught the sport. Another role model.
“This is more difficult than running,” says Poisner. “The two rules of race walking are: one foot on the ground at all times; and the other rule is that your knee has to be straightened when your foot hits the ground and remain straight until your body passes over it. That is more problematic, especially for older walkers.
“That gets rid of the advantage that runners have with a bent knee. With a bent knee you get some spring, because of the elasticity in your muscles and tendons. Walkers do not get that advantage, but by the same token they don’t injure their knees because all of their weight goes down their bones to their foot. So old walkers don’t have bad knees like old runners do.”
Poisner said he has one more advantage. At age 80, he’s a newlywed. “I just got married in October.” His new bride, Sharon, is currently learning how to race walk, and Poisner said her goal is to race walk in the National Senior Games two years from now.
Poisner’s active schedule has him headed off to Jacksonville, Florida for the USATF Nationals next week, and then on to the Nebraska State Senior Games being held August 6-9.
For parting advice to race walkers, the gold medalist says “You have to keep your focus, and when you get tired it’s harder. The focus means you have to keep your knees straight when your foot hits the ground.”
300 Game, 815 Series
Parschen’s Penchant for Perfection - Rich Parschen of Strongsville, Ohio is taking home a 2015 National Senior Games gold medal in doubles and a singles silver medal in the men’s 60-64 division, but he also accomplished a rare feat during his doubles preliminaries Tuesday - a perfect game. Parshchen knocked down a 300, 289 and 226 in the round for an 815 score.
Parshchen, who brought 15 balls with him to the competition, told us this was the 107th 300 game in his career, something worth tooting your horn about. And in fact, Parschen, a retired band director, did just that on Wednesday morning at the AMF Southtown Lanes when he pulled out his clarinet and played the National Anthem to start the day’s competition.
Pickleball Players Pack their Paddles...and Medals
Pickleball wrapped up its final matches at the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana with the singles players in the 65 and over age divisions.
Jim White of Naples, Florida, won the championship match for Men’s 85-89. This was his first time competing in pickleball. Previously, he had competed at The Games in racquetball and tennis, but after that became too hard on his body he moved on to pickleball. Taking silver in the same division was Don Myers from Kent, Ohio. Don has been to all but two National Senior Games except two since the inception of The Games in 1987.
At the 2013 Games, Georgia Billger won silver in Women’s 70-74. This year, she won the gold in Women’s 75-79. “It feels good,” Billger said, though she added that she doesn’t care about medals all that much. “I just love to play.” Billger has competed in the Delaware Senior Games for 16 years and has previously competed in volleyball, softball, and basketball. In 2013, she received the Charlie Marten Memorial Award from the Delaware Senior Olympics for her commitment to staying active even while facing various health problems.
In Women’s 85-89, the gold medal was won by Joyce Jones of Bothell, Washington, and Mary Crusius of Southern Pines, North Carolina won silver. Coming out on top of the Men’s 75-79 bracket was Bill Smith of Mills, Wyoming, with Robert Stauffer of The Villages, Florida taking the silver medal, and Dick Johnson of Boise, Idaho winning the bronze.
3 Questions - Beth Traut, 57, Faribault, Michigan, Competing in Pickleball
What have you enjoyed most about the games?
I think what I’ve enjoyed most is being able to see all the different levels of talent here at the pickleball courts. I’m just amazed at all age groups. It’s been incredible and the other part of it is the camaraderie and the social aspect.
I’m not sure if it’ll be in the next couple of years, but I definitely want to stay connected with the Senior Games. I’m proud to be a part of it. My family has all come to support me.
Share the experience and tell all of my friends about it and how much fun it was. I’ve been doing a little Facebooking and there have been some pictures up. A lot of my friends who weren’t even really aware of The Senior Games now know about it because I’ve been talking about it. I’ve also been talking people into participating in the next ones, and not necessarily in pickleball.
Basketball Players Hit the Final Stretch
Athletes at the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana are showing they know how to play an exciting game of basketball in the final stretch of The Games.
Roundballers who came from across the nation and Canada arrived at St. Thomas Academy on Wednesday to play in the final rounds of women’s 60+ 3-on-3 basketball. Even after a few days of competition, many of the athletes were still working to calm their nerves. “We need to relax. We get a little too tense, I think about it, you know, because it’s kind of important,” said the Texas Stampede’s Laurie McGee, 64, of Mansfield, Texas. The Stampede won bronze in the second division.
As the competition drew nearer to the final games, athletes expressed pride in how their teams performed. “It’s definitely a team effort. There’s no one star. We all trust each other and played well together,” said San Diego Flash member Linda Zaniboni, 59, after her team beat the San Diego Triple Threat.
The athletes have advice for others who are looking to become healthy. Vancouver Canadians’ Judi Lewinter, 61, of Tucson, Arizona says, “Get active, stay active. Don’t stop, no matter what it is. There’s so much to it besides just the physical and the mental and the emotional.”
Volleyball: They’ve Got Rhythm
Who Can Ask For Anything More?
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” –Henry Ford
What would a team like women’s 65+ Play’n with Altitude say back to Henry Ford? What would they say it takes for a volleyball team to become a finely tuned machine?
“Rhythm is a huge part of volleyball,” says team captain Snow Lopez. “When you first get on the court it’s getting off your heels and moving, and talking, and knowing each other.”
Play’N with Altitude took gold in the 2013 National Senior Games and team members are taking silver medals back home to Colorado this year.
Of her teammates, Lopez says, “We have had to play with five because one of our star hitters also plays basketball and took a gold in basketball. So we’ve had a lot of movement on the court,” Lopez said. The double duty “star hitter”who Lopez refers to is Madelon Eichhorn, 67, playing in her sixth National Senior Games.
One advantage that Play’n with Altitude has is that all the team members live relatively close to each other. Lopez says that the team members make it a point to get together and practice as a team Thursday and Fridays. However, most team members are practicing in some combination 5 to 6 times a week.
The team goes to regular clinics focusing on basic skills. “As silly as it sounds the good old pass-n, pass-n, pass-n, set-n, set-n, set, set-n, hit-n, hit-n, hit-n, and serve-n, and serve-n, and serve-n are really important. You don’t get those in a game. You have to practice those skills,” Lopez said.
Summing up what makes a good team, Eichhorn says, “I think we respect each other’s game and we work together well. We know where the strengths are and we talk, we communicate, and we’re friends. We just play together well.”
National Senior Games Athletes: The Games are More than Just Competition
Win or lose, the athletes competing in the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana, have gained many experiences, memories and friends from their time in Minnesota. With only positive words to say about the overall experience, these athletes are feeling lucky to have been able to be here and to compete.
Essie Faria, from North Miami,Florida, has competed in three Games and said, “I did better before, but I’m just having fun this time. I haven’t done much in two years, and I’m 80 years old now so I’m just doing my thing.” Faria earned two bronze medals in Table Tennis.
Athletes came to Minnesota from every state, the District of Columbia and nine foreign countries. Attendees commonly speak of enjoying getting to know their competitors as well as making friends. “This is the closest to the Olympics I’ve ever seen and it’s incredible,“ said 67-year-old pickleball player Bob Schwalb from Cary, North Carolina. “In my bracket alone there are 15 states represented.”
Richard Rowan, 78, from Griffin, Georgia, competed in Shuffleboard and has reconnected with friends he last saw six years ago and others he has met throughout his five Games. Rowan lost his Shuffleboard partner of ten years last year, but brought his wife along with him to compete this time. “I felt like these Games were as good as any of them. I just enjoy the game part and the competition,” Rowan said.
Bob Schwalb echoes the sentiments of many, saying he feels lucky to be healthy enough to still be playing and active. Linda Scholl, 57, who traveled in from Arlington, Virginia to play volleyball, shuffleboard and to coach a 70+ softball team to a gold medal, said, “I’m not in the best shape or the best athlete here, but my philosophy is that everyone should come and play. You don’t need to be a gold medal winner, you need to just come and enjoy it.” Scholl got involved as soon as she could at 50-years-old and has always had a great time at the games.
Whether is was their first game or their fifth,all of the athletes have gained much from their participation and look forward to the next Games in 2017.
Local Co-Chairs Also Reflect on The Games
Beyond the visiting athletes who gave their parting thoughts on their experience with the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana, there’s another local athlete and a prominent cheerleader who chimed in with their impressions of a long journey to see The Games become a reality.
Susan Adams Loyd, who competed in her third National Senior Games and emerged with a bronze medal in the women's 55-59 400 meter race, and Dave Mona, a well -known businessman, public relations executive and sports broadcaster,, are the co-chairs of the Local Organizing Committee. Both say it has been a long time in the making for Minnesota.The bidding process started back in 2009 and now that The Games are winding down, they reflected on what has happened so far.
Both said their big worry all along was what all Minnesotans worry about: the weather. “We knew we had good venues, we knew we had good volunteers, we knew that we had great officials, but the weather can really throw it off,“ Loyd said. “Especially if it’s windy and cold, or so hot that it’s dangerous.” While there were some small weather disruptions in the early days of The Games, sunny days have followed since, with a few climbing over the 90 degree mark and one day resulting in a heat index of 100. Both said they would take that result given what could have been.
Mona and Loyd believe The Games are important not only for the athletes, but also for the host community as Minnesota was given the chance to show off its abundance of venues and attractions to the athletes and their guests. “The motive is just to make sure that everybody has a great time and goes away raving about the people, the conditions, the cities themselves,” Mona said.