2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana Daily News

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Games Daily News - June 20, 2019

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In this edition:


Sports Brief: 62 NSGA Swimming Records Toppled during 2019 Games 

At the conclusion of swimming at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana, 62 swimming records were shattered by 36 different athletes.

Listed below are the 14 athletes who now hold multiple NSGA records:

  • Mary Jo Agner (53) from Salisbury, NC: Women's 50-54 200 Butterfly & 400 IM
  • Daniela Barnea (75) from Palo Alto, CA: Women's 75-79 100 Breast, 200 Breast, 200 Butterfly & 200 IM
  • Kurt Dickson (52) from Glendale, AZ: Men's 50-54 200 Butterfly, 200 Back & 500 Freestyle
  • Philipp Djang (65) from Las Cruces, NM: Men's 65-69 50 Back, 100 Back & 200 Back 
  • Mike Freshley (78) from San Diego, CA: Women's 75-79 100 IM, 200 IM, 200 Breast & 400 IM
  • Glenn Gruber (70) from Pasadena, CA: Men's 70-74 50 Freestyle & 200 Freestyle
  • Steven Heck (70) from Prairieville, LA: Men's 70-74 50 Breast, 100 Back, 100 IM, 200 IM & 200 Back
  • Susan Ingraham (60) from San Antonio, TX: Women's 60-64 50 Freestyle & 200 Butterfly 
  • William Lauer (85) from Knoxville, TN: Men's 85-89 100 IM & 200 IM
  • Joel Lockwood (85) from Lake City, MI: Men's 85-89 100 Breast, 200 Freestyle & 500 Freestyle 
  • Mark Modjeska (66) from Prescott, AZ: Men's 65-69 200 Butterfly & 500 Freestyle 
  • Dave Noble (76) from Raymore, MO: Men's 75-79 100 Breast, 200 Breast & 200 Butterfly, 
  • Kathleen Steffe (57) from Castle Pines, CO: Men's 55-59 200 Freestyle & 400 IM
  • Bob Welty (75) from Dallas, TX: 75-79 Men's 50 Breast, 100 Back & 200 Back

To find out more for other sports, visit the 2019 Results & Records page.

Pat Boone Blessed to be on the Basketball Court

The 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana is hosting numerous notable athletes, but today, one athlete drew in a gaggle of fans for a different reason.

Gospel Music Hall of Fame Member Pat Boone, whose most notable work includes hit songs like Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally and At My Front Door (Crazy Little Mama); renowned movies like April Love and Goodbye Charlie and number-one best selling book Twixt Twelve and Twenty, is playing basketball at The Games with the Virginia Creepers for the third time.

The Virginia Creepers played their first game Tuesday and defeated Pass it 2 Me, 34-18. In their second game, the Virginia Creepers defeated the Tennessee Bombers, 34-26.

The Games Daily News spoke with Pat following the first game and asked him how it felt to be competing at The National Senior Games. “Blessed, just blessed,” Pat says enthusiastically.

“I’ve started my 86th year, and to be able to be out here with these guys and be able to run around and play is amazing. Not many our age can do this,” he says. “We are a fortunate few and the only reason we’re here is because we obey the cardinal rules of taking care of ourselves.”

Here at The Games, Pat is wearing No. 24 to honor Rick Barry, a well-known player for the Oakland Oaks of the American Basketball Association (ABA) and later named an NBA Hall of Famer. Pat was previously an owner of the Oaks and had a part in the genesis of the ABA. Barry was the star of the team and drew hoards of attention and press coverage to the Oakland Oaks.

“I’m the only guy here who has helped start a league, and then won a championship with my very own team. So, I’ve got to try and equip myself reasonably well here,” he says.

The Virginia Creepers will play two more games on Wednesday and hope to advance to the medal rounds. .

Pat may be a celebrity, but that doesn’t subtract from how much he loves and appreciates the National Senior Games.

“It’s the joy. The joy of being alive and being capable,” he notes as his favorite part of participating in The Games. “And, it isn’t on accident. Most of the people out here have taken care of themselves and are getting a great reward.”

Story and photos by Tim Harris


Shortstop Ethel Lehmann Has Never Stopped Short

The Freedom Spirits women’s softball team is listed in the 75+ division, yet the average age of its members is 84. Shortstop Ethel Lehmann, a National Senior Softball Hall of Famer and one of the founders of Freedom Spirits, leads the pack at 89.

“My favorite part is seeing all these friends that I’ve met through softball,” Ethel says. “Plus, it’s a great tournament.”

Ethel has faced her fair share of challenges in her mission to play softball. Ethel, who is a 2014 Personal Best featured athlete, formed the Freedom Spirits because Florida did not host a senior women’s softball team. Most recently, Ethel had to sit out of her tournament due to an injury to her iliotibial band. Her teammates claimed before her injury that no ball could get past her and she threw as hard as any man.

“I’m much better now, but I’ve lost the speed I used to have,” says Ethel, “but at 89, I can’t complain.”

The Freedom Spirits came together in 1993 and first entered the National Senior Games in 1995. The ladies first started as a 55+ team and have moved up the ranks and now play in the 75+ age bracket. Since 1995, the Freedom Spirits have won five gold medals, four silvers and two bronze. The last podium appearance for the Freedom Spirits came in the 2015 Games.

“We’re a bunch of grandmas,” Ethel says with special pride, being excited to share that she is now a great grandmother.

The Freedom Spirits played the Ohio Tri-Stars, who won the silver medal in the 75+ division in 2017 and gold medal in 2015. The Freedom Spirits lost a close, hard played game, 12-10, but you can expect to see them back at the Games in 2021 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

“We enjoy the game so much,” Ethel added.

Story and photos by Gabrielle Hockstra-Johnson


Tennis Pro Finds Pickleball

Pickleball may be a new sport for 58-year-old Leslie Bashinsky, but she is a pro when it comes to competition. After only learning how to play pickleball 18 months ago, Leslie made it to the top of the winners bracket, securing the gold medal in pickleball at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana.

Like many others discovering this rapidly-growing sport, Leslie’s background in tennis has helped her transition into the game. She started playing tennis at a young age and has held the number one ranking in her home-state, Alabama, for the 12’s, 14’s, 16’s, 18’s, and women’s categories before receiving a full scholarship to play four years at Arizona State University.

“When the National Senior Games came to Birmingham, I read about pickleball and I was very interested in playing this game,” the Birmingham resident says. “I played tennis for so many years and pickleball was a nice new challenge that I had to learn.”

The two sports share many similarities but pickleball features a smaller court, a no-volley zone and underhand serves. Leslie has been a tennis teaching professional for more than 25 years, using her passion for tennis to train and inspire others.

“We have to volley farther behind and cannot step in that no-volley zone. It’s really hard for a tennis player when they see a ball coming at them to not run right through the kitchen and volley that ball,” Leslie explains.

After years of playing tennis, Leslie has opened up a new path in pickleball as she continues to improve her skills, knowledge and strategy of the game.

“I have met so many people, and everybody is super friendly and nice,” Leslie says. “We all start out at a certain level and we know we can all improve. It’s something that we are able to keep focusing on and chasing.”

Story and photo by Hayley Estrada

Flo Meiler Sets New Record for High Jump

As records continued to be broken during Wednesday’s track and field competition, a well-known name was again etched in the books. 85-year-old Vermonter Flo Meiler cleared the women’s 70-89 high jump event with a leap of .91 meters at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana.  The previous record was .90m.

Flo tried to break her record by attempting to jump .93m on three subsequent attempts, but didn’t quite make it. She believes that she would have performed better today if she had not pulled her hamstring last Sunday while doing the long jump. In typical fashion, she still earned a silver medal.

In March, Flo competed in Poland at the World’s Master’s Games where she jumped over 3 feet in the high jump and brought home five gold medals and two silver medals. In the women’s 80+ group for 4 x 200 relay, Flo’s team broke the world record by a minute. “This is an awesome group of 80-year-old ladies that broke the record and I’m very proud of it,”  Flo expresses.

Flo’s passion for track and field started 25 years ago when she was competing in mixed-doubles tennis with her husband in a qualifying year at the Vermont Senior Games. Nothing seems to stop “the pole vaulting granny,” as she has been called. She’s also called a legend, but quickly states she has been continuously inspired by her best friend and former training partner, Barbara Jordan. Barbara is currently unable to train due to health issues.

At the time Flo began, Barbara encouraged her to try the long jump because competitors were desperately needed. “When she told me that, I looked at her with a very strange look and said ‘Barb, I have never done track’ and she said, ‘that’s okay you’ll be good,’”she recalls..

Flo loves that there are many more athletes competing in the National Senior Games this year. “When you have a lot more competition it makes it a lot more interesting.” When not competing, she’s been relaxing and exploring the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque.

Story and photos by Christina Fitzsimmons

Canyon Nets Enjoy Hometown Advantage

The senior women’s basketball team Canyon Nets has been representing Albuquerque at the National Senior Games since 1993. They are the oldest continuous active basketball program taking part in the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana. This year, they are excited that the Senior Games are being held in their hometown.

“It’s very exciting to have the Senior Games in Albuquerque for a number of reasons,” says Ona Porter, 73, an active member of the Canyon Nets for 23 years and an attendee of 12 National Senior Games. “First of all, New Mexico often has one of the largest basketball contingents at the National Senior Games and the cost of traveling is always a deterrent for many of the athletes. But, with the Canyon Nets its not. We fundraise about a $25,000 budget every year, so every woman traveling to a tournament can get a stipend.”

Ona says that most of the women in the 65+ group of the team were pre-Title IX women. They didn’t have the opportunity to play competitively when they were young. Ona smiles and is glad that she, and young girls growing up, can now play competitive basketball without lawful barriers.

“For many of the women this is their family,” Ona explains. “Some have lost spouses and this has become their community. We are very supportive of one another whenever someone is ill, has died or whatever happens, we all come together around that.”

Ona hopes many are coming out to be spectators in her hometown. “When people hear about senior sports they think of things like shuffleboard and sedate kinds of activities. Now, we do have shuffleboard in the Senior Games,” Ona admits. “but if anybody has ever seen the basketball games, the softball games, the swimmers, the runners and that sort of thing, they know this is not an old lady or old man’s game that is being played. This is tough, competitive sports that everybody can appreciate.”  

Story and photo by Seairra Sheppard


Camaraderie and Fun All Part of Bowling Competition at National Senior Games

The medal rounds for men’s and women’s doubles teams in bowling were contested Wednesday at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana. The atmosphere was nothing short of electrifying, and this feeling was furthered significantly by the return of some Senior Games heavyweights in the sport of bowling.

One such bowler is Wyatt Jarvis, 53, of Orlando. Jarvis arrived at The Games as the National Senior Games bowling record holder in his age division, 50-54.

“The competition is great, and meeting different people from different states (is always fun),” he says. “We all like to bowl. No matter how good, bad or indifferent, we all love to bowl.”

Florence Dufek, 75 of New York, repeated the sentiment, saying, “It’s not for the money, it’s for the medals! But more importantly, it’s for the camaraderie.”

Wyatt played at the 2017 National Senior Games, where he met Margaret Johns. Margaret is now Wyatt’s mixed doubles teammate for this year’s Senior Games.

On the other end of the age spectrum are bowlers Rose Roylo and Beverly Moss, both from Kentucky. Rose and Beverly, 90 and 86 respectively, both won silver medals at the 2015 National Senior Games and gold medals at the 2017 National Senior Games.

The two won in their age division again in Albuquerque, but they did face some challenges along the way. At one point, Rose knocked the only remaining pin after it wobbled back and forth for what seemed like an eternity, exclaiming, “I can’t believe that didn’t fall!”

Two bowlers present who seemed to be having almost no difficulty at all are doubles teammates Loring Deazagio and Don Clayton of Maine. Don and Loring are National Senior Games record holders and previous gold medal winners for the 65-69 age division. This is the third time that Don and Loring have bowled doubles at the National Senior Games, and the pair picked up another gold medal this year.

Loring told the Games Daily News that he felt his performance was “overall good,” following with, “In doubles though, Don really carried me.” Asked if he had any comment, the humorous reply came flatly as “No.”

Another exhilarating duo to watch is Shirley Focht and Sheila Stormo, though Sheila says you can call her Shirley and vice-versa adding, “We’ll answer either way.” Sheila and Shirley won gold at both the 2015 and 2017 National Senior Games but did not come out as victorious this year.

Bowling is already exciting enough to watch, and action continues at the Santa Ana Casino until Friday’s mixed-doubles team bowls.

Story and photo by Tim Harris

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