Kathy Bergen, 81, La Canada, California
It’s hard to keep up with elite track and field star Kathy Bergen, whether it’s her competitors or the statisticians. She was the most decorated athlete at the National Senior Games in Albuquerque in 2019, chalking up three American and five National Senior Games records. After nine appearances, Kathy’s name appears 23 times over four age groups in NSG All-Time Performances. Twelve are in the #1 spot.
Her legacy continues to grow across the masters track landscape, as she now holds a total of 42 American and 28 world records. After she set two more world records (in W 80-84 100M and 200M events) at masters meets this year, we had to chase her down to comment on her success.
It’s no surprise to find that Kathy earns every medal, training and competing year-round as intensely as any elite athlete of any age or sport. “I learned a little late in life that you can’t take shortcuts to get where you want to go,” she observes. “You have to put in the work.”
Setting lofty goals is another key to maintain her focus. “Every time I age up into a new division, I make a goal to set a new record in six events- the 60-meter, 200-meter and High Jump indoors, and 100, 200 and High Jump in outdoor competition,” she says. “I’m pleased to have met that and added one more in the 80-84 group in my first year as the youngest. Most likely I won’t set any more records in the 80-85 group, but I don’t want to ever lose an event either.
“I want to win every event I’m in. That’s just it,” she asserts. “I want to be the fastest kid on the block.”
Kathy credits her husband Bert, who also competes in field events, for being the perfect partner in her athletic pursuits. “It’s great fun because we both have to put so much time into this. I don’t just start working out before a meet, I work out all year,” she explains. “Bert does too, so we understand each other’s goals and the time and effort necessary to do this. It’s nice to share the journey with someone.”
The grandmother of 13 did not run her first race until she was 54 and Bert was 56. “I had no idea there was track for older people. Bert read about it in a magazine and we decided to try it,” she recalls. “I was a very competitive tennis player before this. I still love to play tennis, but I love track and field more. But I guess it’s easy to like something when you’re good at it.”
While she is laser-focused in competition, Kathy also enjoys the social interactions with her peers, and contributing as one of the eldest members of her all-age SC Striders track club. “It’s fun see all the women I compete with each time. It’s nice being with people as crazy as I am!”