HUMANA Hero: Brenda Matthews, 67, Anaheim Hills, California
Trackster Brenda Matthews is at the top of her game. Last year, the four-time National Senior Games competitor scored four gold medals at the 2015 Games in the women’s 65-69 50, 100, and 200 meter races, plus the long jump. She also helped her 4x100 relay team earn a silver medal. She was undefeated in all of her 2015 masters races in the U.S. and won two bronze medals at the World Masters Athletics Outdoor Championships held in Lyon, France. That was good enough for USA Track & Field to name her an Athlete of the Year in the women’s 65-69 division.
Sounds like the resume of a life-long track athlete, but surprisingly, Brenda ran her first competitive race as she turned 50. “Softball is my first love,” she says. “I started when I was seven years old and played as a catcher in fast-pitch softball for years. But later my knees weren’t very good to play catcher anymore.”
After seeing people having fun at a senior track event, Brenda asked her sister, who was a high school coach, to help show her the techniques. “It took a lot. I tore my quad muscles, my hamstring, but I did everything one has to do to learn track. But I made it. My goal was to make it to the 2001 National Senior Games, and I won a silver and two bronze. I was ecstatic and caught the bug.”
Desiring to train with others, the retired healthcare project manager took an interest in the Southern California Striders track club. Her enthusiasm soon got her elected president of the club, a position she held for nine years. “As sometimes happens when you show an interest, you find yourself in charge,” she muses. “We just celebrated our 60th anniversary. The Striders have a rich history. We are all friends and enjoy ourselves competing and cheering each other on. We support each other, but we also support the other clubs too. It’s a special community of positive people.”
Brenda obtained USATF Level Two coaching and strength and ISSA conditioning certifications to better help others. “I give back to the sport by coaching all age levels, from 7 years old on up. I want them to have the right level of desire and commitment to achieve their goal, whatever that is.”
“It’s not always a goal to win,” she continues. “There’s one teenage runner I coached who was a bit awkward, so we simply had the goal to not come in last. When he came in 6th out of 8 we celebrated like he had won that race. There’s all levels of victory.”
This year, Brenda kept up her blazing pace, winning all of her U.S. events this year and qualifying for The 2017 National Senior Games in Birmingham next June. However, she was edged out of the top spot in the 200 meter race in international competition at the Americas Masters Games held in Vancouver. That set up a new goal for her. “That’s not going to happen again,” she laughs. “She’s a very nice lady, but I can’t wait to get back on the track with her.”