Personal Best Spirit Ripples Through Pool
by Amy Adamle
Male and female swimmers were off to the races for the backstroke, butterfly, freestyle, and individual medley events early Tuesday morning in the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
DeEtte Sauer, 74, of Houston, Texas, came out of the women’s 65-74 200-yard freestyle event in second place and feeling great. “I loved it and it actually surprised me. I dropped a lot of time and I did better than I thought I could,” she said after the race. She also competed in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard butterfly events.
Sauer is a 2013 NSGA Personal Best athlete who has been extensively interviewed by media and will be featured in the August issue of Prevention Magazine. She commented she had changed some things about her training and was gratified that it paid off. “You never know until you challenge yourself like this. I work hard and train hard, but you don’t know if it’s going to pay off until you actually compete.”
Inspiring athletes could be found all over the pool deck that morning. Vivian Stancil, 68, of Riverside, California, is legally blind, but that didn’t keep her from competing in the 50-yard backstroke. Stancil began swimming at the age of 50 when doctors told her if she wanted to make it to 60, she needed to lose weight.
Stancil has competed in six previous National Senior Games and was recognized as a Personal Best athlete by NSGA in 2014. At the award ceremony held in Pasadena, California, Olympic swimming legend John Naber astonished Stancil by presenting her with his Gold Medal to wear because of her perseverance and inspiration. “I’m just so happy about being at The Games,” Stancil said. “I love doing the backstroke, but I love it all and just being in the pool.”
Sauer and Stancil may have gained media attention, but the Personal Best spirit lives in every athlete that joined them in competition, such as 71-year-old David Price, a local from Edina, Minnesota, Price, who placed seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke, said, “It’s a nice blend of serious athletes and people who just are here to stay active. I’ve been swimming since high school, but swimming is a great sport because you can swim all of your life.”
One Family, One Sport
by Matt Oleszczak
Watching Patty Bradley play shuffleboard, one might not picture her as the caretaker type. “I’m very young for my age,” she joked. But the 63-year-old’s light-hearted teasing and goofy dancing on the court reveal only one side of her.
Patty acts as caregiver for her younger brother, Bobby Bradley, who has Down’s Syndrome. When he said he wanted to be an Olympic athlete, Patty figured shuffleboard would be a good fit for the 54-year-old.
It turned out he was a natural. “He’s phenomenal and way better than I am,” said Patty. Bobby earned multiple gold medals in the Special Olympics and went on to qualify for the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
While the two siblings are usually partners back in Michigan, they are not competing together at this year’s National Senior Games. The Bradley’s lost their aunt to cancer, leaving their uncle, Richard Salo, without his lifelong shuffleboard partner.
Not wanting to leave their uncle alone, Bobby made the decision to drop out as Patty’s partner and let her play with Salo. “We step in to support our family,” Patty said.
After overcoming heart difficulties, Salo, 85, is expected to join his niece this Thursday to compete. His son, Bill Salo, and daughter-in-law, Donna Salo, will also be joining him in the competition.
Horseshoes and Hammers
by Eric Todd
Horseshoes is serious business, and during the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana, nobody knows this more than 87-year-old Wally Runia of Balaton, Minnesota. Wally was a dairy farmer, then a grain farmer, and now farms hay. Wally’s son, Brad Runia, 42, said his father grows the hay, and then cuts it, bales it “in squares,” and throws every bale onto the trailer by himself.
As Brad watched his father compete with admiration and love, he described how Wally practices year round down on the farm, with one pit out in the yard and one in the machinery shed so he can practice through the winter season. Brad said that he plays his dad every once in a while, but that he hates to, because “he always whoops my butt so bad.”
This is the elder Runia’s first National Senior Games, but he has participated in the Minnesota Senior Games in the past. His basement is decorated with what Brad calls a “wall of Wally” that contains all of his father’s awards from various competitions.
Wally also competes in the hammer throw. In order to practice for this event, Brad told the story of how Wally rigged up a homemade version of a throwing hammer that consisted of a “chunk of metal, a chain, and a handle that he throws around.”
A few weeks back, their athletic exploits on the farm brought a little more drama than they asked for. Brad was watching his dad practice with the makeshift implement and decided to try it for himself. “I gave it a real good throw but it was a little off line. It got caught up in the utility pole and knocked out the power to the area.”
When the power company workers came out to remove the homemade hammer from the lines, they requested a demonstration to see how it all came about. Afterwards, they all had a big laugh about it, but Wally is still hoping he doesn’t end up with a bill.
When The Games are over, in true fashion of a shy and retiring Minnesotan, Wally Runia will head back to the farm and start cutting and baling hay again.
“There’s work to be done, and I have to get home.”
3 Questions – Regena Reynolds, 62, California, Competing in Softball
What’s your first impression of Minnesota? What do you want to see while you’re here?
It’s very clean, green, and the people are nice. We went to Minnehaha Falls yesterday and hiked around.
To be at this age and still playing like kids is awesome.
It keeps me active and young instead of sedentary.
Rita Burns FInds a Home on the Senior Court
by Andrew Ruffing – Photo by: Tyler Rocheleau
Rita Burns has been playing tennis for fun and exercise since her mother introduced her to the sport when she was a child in Chicago. There were no tennis teams, though, in her high school or college. Now, at 55, she’s found a place to play the game she loves with others who share her passion.
Tuesday, Rita found satisfaction winning both of her single sets 6-3 and 6-0 in the Baseline Tennis Center on the University of Minnesota campus as tennis play continued for the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana.
Now a resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin,Rita has qualified for the National Senior Games every year since becoming a senior athlete, but had to miss The Games in Cleveland, Ohio in 2013. Soaking in the atmosphere of her experience being in national competition, he said one of her favorite aspects of The Games is that it is “nice to feel competitive with people your own age.” One her goals in playing tennis is to “be able to keep running around playing singles for a long time.”
For younger people, Burns said it is wise to get exercise and fresh air daily, and to push oneself to be active little by little. She also recommends that young people find something fun to keep active, because then they won’t have to force themselves to get going later. Enjoying tennis as much as she does, Burns will continue to push herself to improve and to keep moving across the courts.
Vendors Impressed by Senior Athletes
Even While Working in Sales, People are Still Inspired by the Games
Husband and wife Sean Paul and Kathleen Robinson interact with athletes every day at the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana. But they’re not coaches, family members, or competitors themselves. They are two of the many vendors you can find at The Village: A Health and Wellness Expo and Athlete Experience sponsored by AstraZeneca Diabetes.
You can find Paul in the colorful toy gears booth at The Village. “We met in Florida,” he said. “Kathleen’s daughter is married to my best friend’s son. That’s how we met.”
Robinson, who sells insole gels for athletic shoes, said, “we’ve traveled all over the place” in their five years of marriage.
When this couple came to the Twin Cities to sell products at the National Senior Games, what they saw is a lot more than they expected. “We didn’t know about The Games,” said Robinson. “Since we’ve come here we are inspired. I keep telling Sean we need to play one of these things. We’re the right age for it!”
From their booths, Sean and Kathleen have met athletes from all over the country and have even seen some compete. “Every day, these people are walking around,” Robinson said, laughing. “And in pretty buff shape, too!”