Senior Athletes Take On Triathlon
by Dan Piering – Photo by Erica Jacques
The sun was still rising over Lake Phalen in St. Paul Sunday morning, but the senior athletes poised to tackle the triathlon at the 2015 Senior Games presented by Humana were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as they sprinted into the water to complete the swimming segment of their race.
“It’s all in the details,” said John White, a 64-year-old athlete from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. White, like dozens of the other athletes at the event, has competed in more than 100 triathlons.
The Games featured a triathlon consisting of 400 meters of swimming, 20 kilometers of cycling, and ending with a 5 kilometer run.
First to cross the finish line was Jon Boggs of West Virginia, who took home the gold medal in the male ages 55-59 division of the race. “Overall the [racing] conditions were good,” said Boggs. “The road for the cycling was rough, though.”
Several athletes commented on the road conditions during the cycling leg of the race, but it didn’t stop their drive and motivation to finish. “I don’t want to go any faster than anyone,” said Fred Thompson of Massachusetts, who won the silver medal The Game’s male ages 75-79 division. “I just want to do better than myself.”
203 athletes from all over the country competed Sunday, and it was the first National Senior Games for many. Perhaps more diverse than the athletes present, however, was the array of reasons for being there. Some athletes strive to win, while others expressed they do it simply for fun. One of the more universal reasons, however, was to maintain fitness, as summed up by 86-year old Frank Farrar. “I want to live,” he said. “I’m the happiest guy around.”
Farrar, a former governor of South Dakota, has ran more than 30 Ironman triathlons since he turned 60. (An ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile cycling race, and a marathon). Farrar, who was at The Games with his daughter, served as an inspiration for those who still wanted to stay in shape at such a high age.
“I’m going to live to be 100,” he vowed.
Female Triathletes Persevere Over Bumps in the Road
by Amy Adamle
“When you have a trial, you’re going to triumph. There’s always a blessing,” athlete Karen Newman said after finishing second in the Women’s Triathlon at Lake Phalen.
Newman, like many other athletes, has faced many challenges in her life including breast cancer. But she has triumphed by competing in the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana, and has written a book, “Just Three Words,” which comes out in October and describes her journey overcoming obstacles. Newman was also featured as a 2014 NSGA Personal Best athlete.
“I love the Senior Games and everyone here. It’s nice to have that camaraderie even when someone’s beating you,” Newman said.
A Minnesota resident, Kathryn Jensen, 51, finished first in the Women’s Triathlon. She was led to the finish line by her 12 year old son, Michael, who has competed in Special Olympics. “Michael has completed two triathlons himself, and he usually leads me to the finish line at the end of my runs,” said Jensen.
Jensen and many of the other athletes thought the course around Lake Phalen was great except for some bumps during the biking portion.
“I’m surprised by my results. The course was a little rough, but it’s better than it’s been before,” Jensen said after the race.
Eighty-four year old Dorothy Sinson from Chicago, Illinois, was happy to have finished with her best time ever in a triathlon. Sinson began training when she was 78 years old after an instructor at her health club noticed she liked to swim and run and suggested she do an indoor triathlon.
“She didn’t know at the time what a triathlon even was, but after she’d beaten everyone from 50 years and above, we realized she’s good at this,” said husband, Junie Sinson.
Sinson was not sure she was feeling well enough to compete until this week, having been in the hospital recently for kidney stones. “I knew that I had worked out and my muscles were ok, but I had no stamina,” she said after the race. “Then I realized that you can’t change your muscles if you’ve been working out, but you can change your stamina with grit-and I did my best time.”
Two Women, Two Teams, Two Stories
by Eric Todd
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”-Henry David Thoreau
The 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana are inspirational to say the least and Shelby Renee Miller, from Greenville, Illinois, is going in the direction of her dreams.
Two weeks after chemotherapy, Miller, 54, puts her glove on and takes her position at first base. She plays with Abe’s Babes from Illinois, and has been battling breast cancer since December 2014.
One couldn’t tell that Miller is battling cancer by looking at her, except for her orange head wrap, under her ball cap, there to protect her scalp.
Watching Miller play, you see a strong, agile woman ready to play ball. Not someone so recently experiencing the body-ravaging effects of chemotherapy.
“I haven’t missed a game yet, “ says Miller, as she cheers her teammates on. “I have amazing support from my team.”Miller’s doctors and family say they are all for it.
Catching a line drive, Cathy Belcher #19 (pictured on the right), is a dynamo at shortstop at the National Senior Games. At 53, Belcher plays with Sudden Impact from Southern California. That’s a long way from Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she lives.
It’s not uncommon for players to come together from several states. Belcher and four of her teammates play softball in Chattanooga and love being together.
According to the 2015 NSGA Softball Rules “Teams are no longer limited to the number of out-of-state players on their rosters.”
Belcher is a strong athlete who grew up playing ball. She took time off only while her son played ball and then returned to the game at the age of 50.
“I just love softball, and all that goes with it,” Belcher said. “Good exercise, meeting friends, traveling, it’s a lot of fun.”
On this particular day, Belcher’s team, Sudden Impact, faced off against Jersey Strong and came out on top, 14-7.
All in this Together
Rochester, NY softball team finds strength in each other
by Matt Oleszczak
“Competition and fun. That’s what it’s all about,” says Dick Huether, captain of the AO/Trovato softball team. This is the philosophy of his 60+ men’s team from Rochester, New York.
One need only look at the 16-man team’s trophy case to appreciate their competitiveness. In each of the past three National Senior Games, a medal has gone home for AO/Trovato. This year, on the first day of bracket play, they’re confident there will be similar results.
“We have a hell of a line-up,”says Huether.
Of course, the group doesn’t forget to have fun. The entire team has remained tight-knit since its inception in the early 2000s. “These guys are the greatest people I know,” says Dennis Warren, a founder of the team. Teammate Alan Klee adds that the team is unique in that everyone is from the Rochester area, contributing to their camaraderie. They all drove from New York to Minnesota and are staying in the same hotel. Their itinerary includes a team dinner together.
The camaraderie extends to their spouses as well. They join their husbands on these cross-country drives. “[My wife and I] see so many places we probably wouldn’t have gone to,” says Klee. He mentioned Salt Lake City, a city he might never have seen but for softball.
On the opening day of pool play, AO/Trovato took on the City of Crossville 60s and came out ahead by a score of 14-10.
Better clear a spot in the trophy case.
3 Questions – Betsy Beddow
What’s your first impression of Minnesota? What do you want to see while you’re here?
We just arrived this morning (July 3). I’ve been here before with my daughter. I would like to go back to the Mall of America.
What’s so special at National Senior Games for you?
I just love the competition.
What’s the greatest benefit you get from being a senior athlete?
It’s about the fitness. I’ve had my back fused and hip and knee replaced since I’ve been to the games. I’ve been here four times.
by Cara Desmond – Photo by Rebekah A. Romero
Waiting for the next swim heat to start, 55 year old Patty Sweetall of Louisville, Kentucky, stood alone by the pool and stretched. It wasn’t long before sister Janet McDonough, 57, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was at her side offering encouragement and advice.
The siblings both set multiple records during the 2013 Games, and are back for more in the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
Janet and Patty started swimming together at their local pool in Monroeville, Pennsylvania when they were nine and seven years old. They continued the sport throughout middle and high school, and both went on to compete at Division I level for West Virginia University.
After college they stopped swimming. Patty took up running, while Janet took up competitive swimming again only a few years ago. Since then, Janet has set records in both the National Senior Games and the YMCA Masters National Championship.
The sisters competed together again at the 2013 National Senior Games in Cleveland, though Janet had to convince Patty to get back in the pool. Janet remembered talking to her sister on the phone and pleading “Patty, come on; I’m going to Nationals.”
Despite her break from swimming, Patty had no problem returning to her old form. “When you grow up swimming it’s kind of like walking,” she said. At the 2013 Games she set records in the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke. She earned another gold medal at this year’s games after winning the 200-meter breaststroke once again. Janet has won three gold medals this year, and even broke her own record in the 50-yard backstroke.
Although Janet and Patty have a lot of competitive success, they make sure to have a lot of fun at The Games; they mentioned the many great people they’ve met and how friendly everyone is.
Going to The Games has strengthened their family relationships. Each of them has a daughter, and they use the trip as a mother-daughter bonding experience. It also enables the sisters to connect with each other more since they live in different states.
“Janet’s my coach,” Patty said. “It’s good to have someone looking out for you.”