Florida Feature by Nick Gandy, Florida Senior Games
To say Sharon Haley and Karen Wood are the mirror image of one another is an understatement.
The Race Walking twin sisters from Clearwater, Florida, have the natural mirror image of one another. That’s a given.
At Wednesday’s 5K Race Walk at FLA Live Arena, the sisters were attired exactly the same from their choice of clothing to matching visors and sunglasses to matching fingernail polish colors, orange and green, on alternating fingers.
The lone difference was with their footwear. “Sharon just got some new shoes,” says Karen, the younger of the two, born six minutes after Sharon.
The other difference is that Karen is left-handed, while Sharon is right-handed.
The duo was pacing third and fourth overall in the field of race walkers, but in the last 50 yards, Sharon overcame Karen Swisher from Wisconsin to place second. She claimed to have found another gear to pass Swisher and win a silver medal in the 60-64 age group with a time of 32:34, seven seconds behind Laura Draelos of Albuquerque, New Mexico. On Tuesday, Haley passed Draelos down the stretch to be the top overall finisher in the 1500 meter Race Walk.
“I got first yesterday and she got first today,” Sharon observes. “So that’s ok.”
Wood won the 5K bronze medal in the 60-64 age group, with a time of 33:29.
Both were extremely proud of their times and finishes. In training for the 2022 National Senior Games presented by Humana, Sharon was clocking times around nine minutes for the 1500 meter and finished with a time of 8:48. Karen posted a 1500 meter time of 9:57 at the 2021 Florida Senior Games, in December, and crossed the finish line at 9:17 on Tuesday.
Sharon and Karen are true ambassadors for Florida at the 2022 National Senior Games. They were born and raised in Dunedin and were members of the Dunedin High School Track and Field team. They worked together for Neilsen TV Ratings, based in Dunedin, until Karen was laid off last September. “Karen started at Neilsen first and got me started working there,” Sharon recalls.
They are part of the Tampa Bay Walk Fitness training group based in Seminole. Sharon is a 12-year veteran of the race walk group and is the Florida Senior Games 5K record holder in the 55-59 age group, setting the record in 2020. Karen began Race Walking four years ago.
“We want to do this until we’re 80,” Karen adds.
Before and after the race, Sharon and Karen greeted and congratulated the fellow Race Walkers. Sharon rattled off a list of names and their states of who they had seen. During the medal presentations, they high fived and hugged athletes leaving the podium area.
Given their outgoing personalities and enthusiasm for Senior Games competition, they will easily race walk through their 60s, into their 70s and achieve their goal of continuing into their 80s.