An Unusual Eye for Bowling
by Matt Oleszczak
Who do you normally associate with precision? Jewelers? Tailors? Surgeons?
How about an 88-year-old bowler—and she’s 90 percent blind?
Mary Northrup from The Villages, Florida, plays with the best despite her visual impairment. She rolled into the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana with a 2011 gold medal in Houston and a gold and silver from Cleveland in 2013.
Northrup doesn’t need much help to earn her strikes. She can still barely make out the lanes and where the pins are, and muscle memory does the rest. When it’s her turn, she calls on fine-tuned habits developed over many years. Ball in hand, she takes a step up on the alley. She pulls the ball up, bends her knees, and brings the ball forward with the finesse of someone a third of her age. “I’m healthy other than my eyes. And I’m pretty limber for my age,” said Northrup.
The only time where she needs the help of others is after throwing the first ball of a frame. She can’t see exactly which pins are still standing. On Saturday, she got an assist from Virginian Frances Coltrane. Every pin has a number, and Coltrane would shout out the pin number to help Northrup figure out her strategy. Their rapport was so smooth it seemed like they were long-time friends, but it turned out they’d never met before this week. Coltrane felt it was a no-brainer to help. “I would hope somebody would do it for me. Because it’s a shame to stop participating just because you can’t see like you used to,” she said.
Northrup, who had bowled since her teenage years, began experiencing macular degeneration back in 1997. It progressed slowly. She stopped driving only about five years ago and can still use a golf cart in her Florida senior community. Northrup isn’t sure whether she’ll be able to handle the next National Senior Games, but leaves it open as a possibility. “You do the best with what you have,” she said.
Her Coach is Gone, But Influence Remains
by Amy Adamle
A coach can have a lasting impact on an athlete. Karen Simon, 59, has played racquetball competitively since 1989, when a man named Moses Nicholson told her she had potential. Nicholson became Simon’s coach for 26 years and his influence helped her win a national gold medal in Palo Alto in 2009 and brought another one Saturday afternoon.
Nicholson died in February at the age of 88, but Simon holds her coach in her heart every time she plays. “I figure he’s watching from above. I wouldn’t be doing this without him and he was such a big part of my life,” Simon said, fighting back tears.
When Simon came to The Games this year, she dedicated her play to her coach, whose influence extended beyond racquetball into other aspects of her life. “I’ve met the most wonderful people playing,including my husband,” Simon said. She wryly notes that they play together often and “I take it easy on him when we play.”
Simon’s coach gave her much valuable advice, including how to stay in shape to play at a high competitive level. “The training, if you take it seriously, is like a full time job. Especially at our age, because you really have to keep up with not just what you do on the court, but your cardiovascular, your weights, your balance, and all of that stuff to get these old bodies ready to move,” the Floridian, said.
Her coach is no longer with her, but Simon plays for him and plays for herself. She hopes she can inspire others to play as well.
Author Goes Full Cycle Thanks to Senior Athlete
Stories of life-changing friendships abound at the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. While doing research for her new book, Life Reimagined - The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife, former National Public Radio correspondent, Barbara Hagerty heard about the Senior Games and reached out to NSGA.
Hagerty was referred to several athletes and she selected Mike Adsit, a cyclist and cancer survivor with a dramatic story to tell. Adsit was selected to be an NSGA Personal Best athlete profile this year.
A lifelong runner, Hagerty had discovered she had arthritis in her right knee in 2012. “I could hardly walk up the stairs, and the doctor said ‘you can’t run,’” Hagerty said, She then asked,“Well, can I bike?” That turned out to be a possibility and became her rehab and exercise option.
Hagerty shared this history when she met Adsit to record an interview for an NPR piece Hagerty was working on. After the interview, Adsit said, “Let’s go for a bike ride.”
Hagerty had brought her “old bike” with her and the two pedaled off on a 20 mile loop. Hagerty, then a novice cyclist, made the distance faster than she had ever done. Adsit looked at Hagerty and said, “We’re going to get you qualified for the National Senior Games and I’m going to be your coach.”
The author of a book about people making midlife changes found herself on a new path in life, and that path led her to Minnesota thanks to her story subject and mentor.
Hagerty hopes to offer several insights in her book, but points to one quality that underlines most of the people she profiled, including Adsit. “It’s having a passion, in his case it’s sports, But it can be anything else, and it transforms your life,” she explains. “You won’t find a negative person here at the Senior Games. You’ll find people full of verve and excitement about life. Talk to anyone and they will tell you how much fun they’re having.“
“I think it’s a national myth that once we hit your 40s, 50s, or 60s we’re going to coast. No! You don’t need to do that. The way to stay young is to keep challenging yourself.”
3 Questions - Vivian Stancil, 68, California, Competing in Swimming
What’s your first impression of Minnesota? What do you want to see while you’re here?
I just want to encourage non-participants to come, join and see and explain to them to get in contact with their Parks and Recs for the different sports. It’s not only swimming, there’s other things. Start with your local state and get involved. I was 320 pounds when I started and the doctor told me if I didn’t lose that weight I wouldn’t see my 60th birthday. I’m 68 now.
The excitement. The people that you meet. I feel that the National Senior Games are more family oriented.
The camaraderie. I love the competitive spirit, regardless if you win. I realize there are going to be losers and winners, so I take it all with a smile. I’ve made many friends all of the seven years I’ve competed and we’re still in contact.
Track and Field: Favorites Glynn, Peyton Do Not Disappoint
by Dan Piering
As clouds flew across the sky over the St. Thomas University track stadium, familiar favorites flew down the track and through the air, breaking several records and personal bests.
Kay Glynn, a 62-year-old from Hastings Iowa, set the NSGA record for women’s pole vault in the 60-64 year old category. “I knew that it [the record] was 8’6”, so I went 8’6” and a quarter,” said Glynn.
Glynn had put off a hip resurfacing procedure two years ago to compete in the 2013 games in Cleveland. She went for her normal height and failed to clear the beam and missed a medal in a gutty all-or-nothing gamble. After her surgery, Glynn has only been able to vault at three meets prior to coming to Minnesota. Evidently that was enough as she captured the gold medal today. Smiling, jumping, and doing handstands to warm up in between vaults, she said that competing is fun, but for her the high point is the friends she makes at The Games.
“There’s a lot of happy people when you come to these meets, and I’m convinced it’s because they’re active,” Glynn said. “It’s the attitudes of these people that’s so amazing.”
Meanwhile, on the track, 62-year-old Oscar Peyton dominated the men’s 100 and 200 meter dashes. Peyton is an accomplished sprinter, having won the Masters National Track and Field Championship seven times, and the National Senior Games seven times as well.
Glynn and Peyton have something in common. Each of them started on or after their fiftieth birthday, proving again that anyone can start competing at any time. And both have been selected NSGA Personal Best athletes based on their life journeys.
“Not everybody has the gift of speed,” Peyton said. “But we all have a gift. We just have to find out what it is. It may not be even physical. But everybody have something that they can be good at. And even if you can’t be good at it, some days you do it just for your health. Not to be the best, you’re doing it for the love of it and for the benefits of it.”
Golfer Battles Greens, Finds Gold
Golfer Lindsay Tise, 96, had his worst round of The Games on Friday, but still finished with a total score of 144, an average of 48 strokes in each of the three nine-hole rounds. He beat his nearest competitor in his age group by 25 strokes.
Tise, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, thought Como Golf Course was beautiful, but had some of the toughest greens he’d ever encountered, which added quite a few strokes to his total.
“The ball would go every way but straight,” Tise said.
While Tise will be going home with a gold medal in his event, the competition was not the most important thing to him. “What it’s really about is the fellowship with the other guys. We played with the same group for three rounds so we got to know each other,” Tise said. He hopes to be back to play in the 2017 Games.
Tise was competing in his first Senior Games at the National level, having previously played in local and state games.
by Cara Desmond
You can hear the fans cheering and the whistles blowing even from the sidewalk outside of the Minneapolis Convention Center.
On Saturday, volleyball teams in the Men’s 55-59, 65-69, 76 and over, and the Women’s 50-54, 60-65, and 70 and over divisions all gathered to play their final matches in the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
The gym was crowded with players and spectators. On one wall, players from Lightning, a team from Illinois competing in the Women’s 70 and over bracket, sat and scouted out their quarter-final match opponents. After winning silver in The 2013 Games in Cleveland, team member Jan Pihl said this year, “We’re back for the gold.”
Over at the next court, the championship in the Men’s 65-69 bracket was being played. It came down to a one set playoff match between the Boomers and the Harrisburg Divers. Players from both teams were diving all over the court until the Boomers finally won the gold by 25-21.
“It’s a relief [to win],” said Boomer’s captain Henry Dahlen, a 66-year-old from Ellicott City, Maryland. “It was nail-biting at the end there.”
While the team was happy about winning, manager Allan Schultz, 71, of St. Paul, Minnesota, said his players have the “utmost respect” for the Divers, explaining that the teams have faced off before, and that some Boomers have even played for the Divers. “It would have been no shame to lose to them,” Schultz said.
Other teams taking home medals were the Grey Wolves, who won the Silver bracket in Men’s 55-59, and the Middle Agers, also winning the Silver bracket in the Men’s 65-69 division.
Strategy Shift Pays Off To Defend Hometown Pride
by Joey Erickson
The action is heating up as tennis competition is winding down at the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. On Saturday in the quarter-finals of the men’s singles ages 75-79 tournament, Bob Busch earned a hard fought victory over Dennis Irwin, 6-1 6-7(4) 1-0(5).
Busch, from nearby Edina, Minnesota, won the first set of the match, but quickly found himself down 5-1 in the second set. But he did not give up.. “I just keep telling myself, you’ve gotta play smart, and keep the ball in play,” he said. He fought hard and came back to take a 6-5 lead, but couldn’t close out the set and wound up losing in the tiebreaker.
Busch will play number one seeded Henry Baughman in the semi-finals on Sunday. While winning would be nice for him, he is happy just to be competing. “I’m at the stage of my life where I’m just grateful for my health,” Busch said.