2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana Daily News

11 minutes reading time (2180 words)

Games Daily News - June 24, 2019

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In this edition:

Winning With a Rosy Outlook

Rosemary “Rosy” Spraker, 55, ran both the 5k and 10k this week at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana. In the 10k, the Virginia trekker took the running lead and finished not only with a gold medal, but also first place overall on the women’s side of competition.

In the 5k earlier in the week, she took second place in the 55-59 bracket, and placed third in overall time.

“Today, it was my goal to hang with the two people ahead of me in the 5k and try to keep their pace,” Rosy explains. “Turns out that I actually ran the first 5k of this race faster than I did on the 5k Friday. But I hung with them till about mile four and I was feeling good, so I decided I would go for it and pass them. Then I just hung on to the finish line.”

Rosy draws inspiration from marathon legend Kathrine Switzer, and is a frequent running companion to the iconic runner and has become a trained 261 Fearless coach. She grew up running with her sisters in Colorado, and continued running until she started college where she was met with a busy life and started a family,  eventually losing her running habit. When her oldest son was old enough to babysit her younger son, she started pounding the pavement again.

“I decided I better get a healthy lifestyle again,” Rosy says. “Start eating and sleeping properly, and get into an exercise program. I saw a brochure for team training to run a marathon and I thought, ‘I better go do a marathon before I get too old.’ I was 40 and had no idea there were women out there running in their 70s and 80s.”

She has now run 13 consecutive Boston Marathons and runs a 5K three to four times a week after she gets home from work, and more on weekends. She aims to participate in two marathons a year.

“When Kathrine ran the Boston Marathon, she was passing the torch to the next generation to continue creating opportunities for women through running, and I’m one of those torchbearers that are carrying that forward and passing it onto women who may not have experienced what it’s like to run.” Rosy says enthusiastically.

Story and photos by Seairra Sheppard and William Courtsworthy Weaver IV

The Courage to Encourage

When Tom Garrity, 55, passed by after the swim leg of last Saturday’s individual triathlon competition, The Games Daily News noticed he had a photo pinned to his back. That raised our curiosity, so we caught up with him after the race and discovered he was a man on a mission.

Tom, a public relations professional from Albuquerque, told us he had founded a program called One Medal with a simple objective: provide a way for runners to give encouragement to others by competing in their honor.

“I started distance running 10 years ago and began to honor people thru the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society,” he explains. “I first ran three marathons for my friend Pete and realized that encouragement costs absolutely nothing, and that others could do the same thing. So I started this program to provide a platform for others to run for people as a sign of encouragement.”

The woman on his back is another close friend from Albuquerque. “Kerry and I used to run together in a running club. She was walking her dog in 2017 and a distracted driver lost control, hopped the curb and struck her,” he recalls. “She is now a paraplegic and needs a lot of encouragement. So I just wanted to run this race today for her. I did not win a medal, but we do suggest that others can make that gesture as part of their support.”

Tom knew he would not come close to the podium, having sustained a stress fracture on his foot during a triathlon two weeks ago. But he was determined to honor his friend at National Senior Games. “My foot’s OK for the swim and bike, but I decided to put on some fancy footwear (a brace) and just walk the running leg.”

He did find a benefit from his injury. “Kerry knows that I’m winged, so it was special just being in the race,” he says. “Typically, I am completely focused on my time, but because of my injury I was more aware of what was going on around me, and I enjoyed seeing and talking with the competitors more.”

Story and Photo by Del Moon

Ed True Continues National Games Streak

32 years ago, Ed True began participating at the National Senior Games, one of seven senior athletes to compete in every National Games since its inception in 1987. This year, he is back at 85 to run the 50-meter dash, hurl the discus and test his shuffleboard skills at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana.

“When I was 55-years-old, I read about the Illinois Senior Olympics in the paper, I filled out an application and that was my first start into doing the games and I’ve been hooked ever since,” Ed says. “I was actually chairman of the games in Illinois for 10 years and I met a lot of people doing that.”

The Personal Best featured athlete continued in St. Louis, Mo. as a board member that helped create the first National Senior Games in 1987. Ed worked alongside Harris Frank, co-founder of the national games and several local supporters in order to start the multi-sport senior event.

“The games themselves have changed quite a bit, the first one probably had no more than 2,500 people. And look where we are now – I think I heard nearly 14,000. I think the venues have been a little bit better each year. Albuquerque is the best yet,” Ed says.

The Illinois resident has been a multisport athlete since he first started, participating in almost every track and field event. The competition and camaraderie have been the reason Ed continues traveling and competing in The Games every two years.

Ed not only greatly enjoys shuffleboard, he says it is often sold short as a sport. “Many people think shuffleboard is recreational, you only do it on a ship somewhere but there is a skill to it,” Ed says. “You have to know when to hit the discs off and where to place them. It’s a great way to stay active.”

Story and photo by Hayley Estrada

Over 5,500 New Mexicans Volunteer at 2019 National Senior Games

When Albuquerque was chosen as the host city for the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana, it would become the second largest event for the city, only behind the iconic Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Then, The Games got even bigger by reaching a record-number of athletes by registering nearly 14,000 participants.

With so many athletes, plus thousands more friends and family descending on the city, the need for volunteers became critical. New Mexico responded with more than 5,500 volunteers that stepped up to take on additional roles helping the event be a success.  

“The community really came together to help us set up and run the events over a 12-day period,” says Brian Morris, volunteer recruitment manager. “Although we needed to fill 8,000 roles, the volunteers were gracious enough to take on additional shifts to cover the unfilled roles. It is truly unbelievable how amazing the volunteers were. The National Senior Games wouldn’t have been as successful if it weren’t for them.”

There were many volunteers from UNM, The Gap, PNM, Rio Rancho High School football team, Del Norte High School basketball team, local churches and many more.

Riley Williams, 13, was a youth volunteer from the Ask Academy in Albuquerque. “It has been so inspiring to be here. I admire all of the senior athletes and enjoy seeing what they are capable of doing at their age.” Riley enjoys playing basketball and martial arts.

“Not only did Albuquerque come together as a community, the entire state did,” mentioned Kaley Sisson, volunteer coordinator. “We had lots of volunteers that came from Santa Fe and Taos. It was amazing to see that New Mexico is very community oriented.”

As Albuquerque says “Adios” to the 2019 National Senior Games, it also says “Gracias” to all the volunteers who graciously gave their time to prove that the motto “One Albuquerque” is really true.

Story and photo by Christina Fitzsimmons

Participants, Spectators Share Real Senior Moments

For years, a “senior moment” has been societally defined as doing something forgetful, atypical or wrong – yet those things are not age specific-they are human moments. That’s why NSGA is promoting the use of the #RealSeniorMoments hashtag in social media.

As competition winds down, the Games Daily News asked people about their perception of The Games and how we challenge the stereotypes about aging.

Nancy Kilpatrick, New Mexico resident
Nancy Kilpatrick volunteered her time for the National Senior Games at both the 5K road race and the 10K road race. “I was so impressed and awed by 90-year old people, running at 5,000 feet altitude and coming across the finish line! And, when they did, they would look up, and say ‘thank you.’ I couldn’t believe they were thanking me for cheering them on, and they’re heros! I was so impressed.”

Rebecca Young, 59, Georgia athlete
“My real senior moment was seeing all these amazing things athletes are doing for their age. I feel like coming here and being able to do a triathlon has been an awesome experience.”

Ismael “Ish” Morales, New York athlete
Ish Morales of New York was met at the finish line of Sunday’s 10K road race by his wife Alicia and his two sisters, Maria Wendorf and Liz Grimes. Liz was the first to say it, but all four agreed, on their real senior moment: “I think it was incredible to watch him cross the finish line with all of those other seniors. That was my highlight of the National Senior Games,” she said.

A. Pauline Romero and Beth O’Neall, New Mexico athletes
Their real senior moment came in sharing their own experiences as longtime runners who have seen each other at meets before, but hadn’t truly met until the 10K road race in Albuquerque on Sunday.

“The Games are about diversity right? About wanting this world to be a place where all of our strengths are nurtured,” Beth says. “I think about A. Pauline’s 89-year-old relative Esther out there, and it’s incredible.”

“Yeah, that was a high point for me, seeing Esther run,” A. Pauline adds. “In Jemez, New Mexico, we have running traditions, and it’s very important to us. We’re all runners. I’ve been running since high school, but now I do it to motivate my grandkids and my whole family, so that they stay in good health. That’s what I want for my family is good health,” she said.

Story and photos by Tim Harris

Pitching Horseshoes to New Players

Horseshoes has been a medal sport of the National Senior Games since its inaugural gathering in 1987. But recently the sport has seen a downturn in interest, leaving many wondering if the sport will continue in the future Senior Games.

“It’s very hard to attract players, it’s mostly an old folks type of sport. We’ve been trying to do everything just to get people to compete,” says Linda Chavez, a horseshoes player from New Mexico.

Linda has been playing horseshoes competitively since 1987. She started playing for fun with her brothers and soon began playing in tournaments. Linda also says that injuries are a factor with losing players, though she herself has suffered from a broken wrist and came back to play after healing.

Linda doesn’t think the sport is going to die, but she says it’s hard to say what it is going to take to attract new players.

“There’s a lot of people that do play, they just don’t think about competing,” Linda says.

According to Phillip Contreras, the president of the Albuquerque Horseshoes Club, clubs are using flyers, word of mouth, and social media to generate more attention to the game. He also advocates to players that the sport is good and easy exercise.

In regulation horseshoes, players must throw from certain distances depending on age and are subject to more stringent scoring rules.

Phillip acknowledges that there is a big group of players, that they refer to as backyard players, that are currently just playing for fun with their families and not competing.

The numbers are telling though.  2019’s National Senior Games roster has 139 horseshoe players, up 40 from the 2017 Games, which could suggest pitching horseshoes is experiencing a resurgence in interest.

“Like many other sports, maybe it’s just a matter of appealing to the novice player,” Phillip muses.

Story and photo by Gabrielle Hockstra-Johnson

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