Brian Hankerson, 62, Hollywood, Florida
It’s easy to assume that athletes just have a gift and that it’s not something you could go out and do, especially in midlife. Brian Hankerson no longer believes that and offers his story as proof. While he always knew he could jump and run, he never knew how good he might be until he put it to the test and won his first ever competitive race at age 45.
It was a harbinger of great things to follow, and Brian, now 62, is just getting started in his senior athletic career.
The Miami native still runs track sprints and relays at some meets, but he has become more focused on jumping since discovering his talent. In National Senior Games Top Ten Performance records, the name Brian Hankerson sweeps the #1 spot all-time in Long Jump for Men’s 50-54, 55-59 and 60-64 age groups. Add #1 in High Jump for 60-64 and top spot for Triple Jump’s 55-59 group. In 2015, he set the American indoor and outdoor masters track records for Men’s 55-59 Long Jump, breaking records that stood for 35 years.
“I’ve always been an athletic guy but was a shorty in high school – when I graduated I was only 5’2” and weighed 98 pounds,” he recalls. “So I spent time in band and did some wrestling, but I didn’t think about doing college sports.” The next year Brian grew ten inches and gained 50 pounds, but he was already on his way to an accounting career and a marriage that would produce four children and 12 grandkids. He lived sports through them and occasionally coached youth at a local park, making sure to run with the kids to be an example.
When he was 43, Brian was at a youth track meet and saw there were also masters athletes giving their all. He thought it would be fun to compete with those guys, and after he set high jump and long jump records in his first real competition, he knew there was more potential. As he progressed in masters track, other experienced athletes offered him advice and encouragement about training, rest and nutrition. One suggested his speed and the spring in his high jump could make the long jump his breakout sport.
Within three years, Brian had heeded the advice and was aggressively honing his skills as an elite athlete. “Like anything, if you want to be good at it you have to work at it,” he observes. “Do it right, honor the sport. So you have a unique gift. Well, how good can you be? I always strive to be the best at everything I do.”
The 2018 Florida Senior Games Athlete of the Year gains both strength and humility from his faith. He has used his PhD in accounting to serve for more than 20 years as chief operating and financial officer at The Faith Center, a 10,000-member church in Sunrise, Florida. He also has become an associate pastor and teams with his wife to offer marriage counseling. His patience, wisdom and caring attitude has carried into his sporting life, and he is happy that the 2022 National Senior Games presented by Humana will be hosted close to home.
“I believe everyone is here for a purpose, and for me it’s got to be more than just winning medals or glorifying myself,” he says. “People now come to me at the track to share their life concerns. And in the long jump competitions, the other men won’t let the event start until I pray with them. It’s gotten to the point that even some of the track officials want to join in.”
“I just found this to be my role at the meets, to be prepared to listen, to share and pray with someone in the midst of competition,” he continues. “Life goes on because we all have families and issues, successes and failures to deal with. I want to do my best to maximize my gift, both as an athlete and as a friend to others.”
“There’s so much you can do that you may sell yourself short on,” he concludes. “If you have confidence, take that leap of faith and put in the work, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.”