Eugene Driver’s parachute act a masters tradition at Mt. SAC

Masters hammer at Mt. SAC (from left): Visitor Thor Gustafson and entrants Mike Venning, Dave Bickel, Larry Hart and John Ryer. Photo by Joy Upshaw

Masters hammer at Mt. SAC (from left): Visitor Thor Gustafson and some of the entrants — Mike Venning, Dave Bickel, Larry Hart and John Ryer. Photo by Joy Upshaw

M60 sprinter Eugene Driver runs the 100 almost every year at Mt. SAC. Each time, nearing the finish line, he reaches into his singlet and unfurls a mini-drag chute. The crowd loves it. Every year, I vow to get the shot. Every year I miss. On Saturday, Chris Stone finally nailed it. She got a series, in fact. Eugene took last in 13.94, but he was thrilled with the time. He’s been competing in masters forever (clocking 10.85/21.56/49.65 as M30 at Wichita nationals in 1982) and ran 11.68 as an M40 in 1992. So I’m glad he gets his due at last. We also feature Joy Upshaw and Willie Gault in the 100 and the men’s 800 race, which saw Art Siemers overtaking Mike Smith in the final yards, winning in 2:00.34. Also, check out Q&A video of Kirsten Leetch, who ran the masters women’s 800, the race we missed.

Eugene needs a drag chute to slow him down after sizzling 100 at Mt. SAC.

April 21, 2014  No Comments

Willie Gault ‘wipes the dust off’ in winning Mt. SAC 100 in record

Former Super Bowl champ Willie Gault is no hot dog — despite his recent remarks about being faster than all but 8-10 current NFL speedsters. After winning the Mt. SAC masters 100 in an event record 11.28 seconds, he simply walked off to the west stands. I managed to flag him down for a short Q&A, which I posted as a video for Times of San Diego. He says he weighs 173 pounds, and I remarked he looks lighter than a few years back, when he set M50 world records in the 100 and 200. He said it was his first race in two years. If he could go sub-11 this year, that would be incredible.

Willie Gault leads the masters 100 field at Mt SAC Relays, beating former Japanese national champion Hiroaki Akabori. Photo by Chris Stone

Willie Gault leads the masters 100 field at Mt SAC Relays, beating former Japanese national champion Hiroaki Akabori. Photo by Chris Stone

April 20, 2014  No Comments

Ashton Eaton’s 400-meter hurdles debut and Stone photos/video

Wife and I were thrilled to see masters sprints and 800s at Saturday’s Mt. SAC Relays — although I was late for taking pictures of the women’s 800. Chris and I took 1,500 pictures in all. Many were of Ashton Eaton (who turns M35 in 9 years) in his 400-meter hurdles debut (fourth in 50.01). So I focused on that project first for Times of San Diego, my weekday gig. W50 Joy Upshaw and M50 Willie Gault easily won the 100s — in 12.90 and 11.28, respectively. Willie told me it was his first race in two years. I have video interviews of both to post eventually, along with tons of photos. In the meantime, check out my story/video on Ashton’s virgin 400 hurdles.

Ashton took the 10th barrier in his 400H debut at Mt. SAC Relays like a pro.

Ashton took 10th barrier in his 400H debut at Mt. SAC Relays like a veteran.

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April 20, 2014  No Comments

Mark Chapman dies at 71; Texas thrower was published poet

Mark Chapman

Mark Chapman

More suddenly than one would hope, Mark Chapman died Friday at his home in Cat Spring, Texas, reports Seth Brower, the Texas meet director. He suffered a major stroke only six days earlier. Seth sent me a biography. Funeral services will be held Monday, April 21, at St. John Lutheran Church in Cat Spring, Texas, with visitation immediately preceding the service from 1 to 3 p.m. Another service will be held in Clay Center, Kansas, at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 26. Visitation will be on April 25 from 5 to 8 P.M. Burial will be at the Broughton Cemetery, Clay County, Kansas. Our deepest condolences to a thrower who touched many lives.

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April 19, 2014  2 Comments

Injuries are but speed bumps to Larry LaGesse, Sue McCarthy

Sue 50? Someone check her ID.

Local papers have done nice stories on M65 multi-eventer Larry LaGesse and W50 sprinter Sue McCarthy, who live in Illinois and Maine, respectively. I like how they deal with injuries. Larry says: “I have to mention the people at Accel Rehabilitation in Bourbonnais. I was fighting a pulled left quad muscle and (therapist) Jarek Mategewski showed me how to stretch it out at home and prevent more training delays.” Sue says: ““I have a better understanding of what my body is doing and what I’m capable of. You have to be aware that you just can’t run through injuries. You have to stop and take care of it.” So what’s your philosophy? Injuries inevitable? Avoid at all costs? Or grin and bear ‘em?

Larry is like all masters, right? Training with a pit in the back yard, of course.

April 19, 2014  No Comments

W80 Irene Obera says: ‘I’ve always felt young, no matter what’

Irene Obera is looking ahead to outdoor nationals, according to a wonderful profile in Bay Area newspapers published Wednesday. “I’ve never felt old,” she said at 80. “I’ve always felt young, no matter what. How am I supposed to feel? I feel great, that’s all I know.” Alan Kolling, a friend and training partner, said: “It’s a mark of excellence; she knows she has the talent and she never settles. I always set these ridiculously high goals for her and she surprises me by always meeting them, and then I have to come up with new ones.” I also love the closing quote: “I always say, I wasn’t put on this Earth to suffer. So, I’ve been living up to that motto.” Unless it’s suffering the last yards of a deuce or quarter-mile. She’ll put up with that.

Irene was profiled in Bay Area Newspaper Group papers, including The Argus of Fremont, Calif., where she lives (and where I lived in the early 1980s).

April 18, 2014  3 Comments

Nike buys USATF? At least masters can expect free uniforms

Selling our soles? Will Nike gear be mandatory? Will masters get PR help?

USATF signed a deal with Nike this week. We have to live with it through 2040. What’s in it for us? Masters track can expect free uniforms for worlds. Maybe some marketing and PR help. The official release says: “The new partnership will enable USATF to fully support Paralympic and masters track & field teams through official outfitting of current Team USA gear.” ChiTrib track writer Phil Hersh wrote: “All USATF can say now about its plans for the increased Nike revenue is it will go for a variety of established and new programs.” Phil quoted USATF PR chief Jill Geer as saying: “That could include programs for elite, masters and youth. Because this does not begin until 2017, we have time to make plans in a collaborative effort.” But wrinkles in the deal may further marginalize masters track. And critics are sounding alarms.

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April 17, 2014  7 Comments

First Mother-In-Law apparently hung up her spikes after all

Marian keeps in shape chasing Malia and Sasha.

Five years ago, I made a valiant effort to contact W70 sprinter Marian Shields Robinson for an interview. Normally, masters athletes are honored to be featured in this crazy-ass blog. But Marian was slow to respond. In fact, she (or her minders) never did. Not surprise. She’s Michelle Obama’s mom and takes care of her granddaughters. I’ve long wondered whether she was champing at the bit to blast out of blocks. Now I learn, via a Washington Post profile, that she quit before moving from Chicago to the White House. “Robinson is as much of a perfectionist as her daughter,” we learn. “She started running in her 50s and became a gold medalist in both the 50-meter and 100-meter races in the 1997 Illinois Senior Olympics. But she abandoned the sport after an injury that made her less competitive.” She’s quoted as telling a magazine in 2007: “If I can’t do it fast, I’m not doing it. You don’t run just to be running — you run to win.” Still, I hope Marian pulls an Irene Obera and gets back in the game. Would love to see her run!

April 16, 2014  One Comment

Free gym memberships for some under Silver Sneakers deal

Seattle’s Jessica Seyfert contacted me before 2010 Sacramento nationals, and I met her at the meet. Now she’s working for another outfit and wrote me again last week. Happy to oblige her on this promotion. Jessica writes: “As competitive athletes, most of us make our way to the local gym to train and crosstrain for our events. Between gym costs and event-traveling costs — the dollars start to add up fast. A friend of mine, whom I met a few years back, was working with a group, capturing stories of masters athletes. We started talking about SilverSneakers — essentially a free gym membership offered by some health plans to their 65+ population. Apparently 1 in 5 people age 65 and older are eligible to take advantage of this benefit. I admit: I thought this was a program of exercise classes for frail ‘old’ people, not us! However, it actually boils down to a free gym membership. Average monthly gym expenses can be anywhere from $20 -$100. That could equate to $1,200 a year. On the subject of saving money to do the activities we love, for those who are eligible, this should be music to your ears.”

April 15, 2014  5 Comments

Happy birthday to Pat Peterson, smiling sprinter of masters track

Pat Peterson has been through the wringer, battling cancer and injuries. But I’ve never seen her sprint without a smile. So I hope today is joyful as she turns 88. She was one of the featured athletes in the 2005 documentary “Racing Against the Clock.” In 1998, she was inducted into the USATF Masters Hall of Fame. (In what other sport do you become a Hall of Famer and continue competing for 15 years or more?)

Pat Peterson (left) leads friend Johnnye Valien at 2011 Sacramento worlds.

Pat Peterson leads friend Johnnye Valien at 2011 Sacramento worlds.

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April 14, 2014  9 Comments