Dick Richards makes impressive comeback at 71
Sprint start maven Dick Richards of Encinitas, California, was nearly unbeatable in the late 1990s — both in the short sprints and the long jump. He dominated the 1999 Gateshead world masters meet and set several world age-group records along the way. Then about 2001 he disappeared from the track. Now he’s back — tanned, rested and recovered from throat surgery.
Dick took two long jumps today at the John Ward Spring Games Masters Meet at Santa Ana College in Orange County, California. His first was 5.07 meters (16-7 3/4) — less than 3 inches off Mel Larsen’s M70 American record. A few hours later, he put on his trademark red-and-white striped biking cap and sped to a 13.6 hand-timed 100 meters. The world and American Record is 12.91.
Yeah, I’d say he’s back.
Such are the stories at this annual meet, a low-key affair on a red track across the street from a red-brick church. People just are blessed. With great stories.
I met a guy after winning my heat of the 100. Steve Melendez, M55, is as tanned and buff as they come. But when he introduced himself, he let it be known that he’s overcome some issues. He’s running despite having suffered a stroke a while back. It apparently didn’t paralyze him, but he said he once couldn’t run without veering off to the side. He stayed in his lane today, fersure.
Another guy I beat in my heat was Juan Bustamante. He has a big gut but bigger heart. He says he weighs 230 pounds — but retains the fast-twitch muscles that bagged him a silver medal in the 1989 World Masters Athletic Championships in Eugene, Oregon. He ran the 100.
Clarence Trahan of Hemet, California, made his debut in the M90 age group, long jumping and sprinting like a kid. Look for him to make his mark in the record books. (He’s already set records in the M85 age group.)
Although the John Ward Spring Games didn’t have a USATF sanction, it still might be the setting of a recognized national record. It was announced today that Annelies Stekelenburg, a Dutch citizen who competes in Southern California, set a Netherlands national W55 triple jump record of 9.04 (29-8).
Another comebacker was Katina Berry, who has a speedy coach — her M40 champion husband, Kettrell. Katina, a W35, ran her first 100 in a long time, ducking under 13 seconds, I heard. She’ll need all the speed she can get to take care of their toddler son, who loves to wander and explore.
Finally, another long-lost masters soul made his reappearance. Thierry Boucquey, whom I met close to 10 years ago, showed up at Santa Ana College after an absence from the track and told me he’ll be traveling to China soon to pursue an academic assignment with masters consequences.
Thierry says he will compete in the Chinese masters national championships at a city 250 kilometers southeast of Beijing. When he returns after the May meet, he’ll bring home notes for a comprehensive report on masters track in China.
Few in the West have a clue on what’s going on in Chinese masters track, so Thierry’s report should be a revelation. For one thing, might the Chinese have masters records there that exceed WMA world records? How many Chinese compete in age-group track over 40? Do their women compete? How many meets are held, and how come we never see their results? Are they allowed to travel abroad for meets? Who runs the show there?
Since we don’t see Chinese at world masters championships (except a few from Hong Kong), they may be competing in a parallel universe that has its own set of rules and records.
I can’t wait to learn what a country of 1.3 billion people is doing in the way of age-group track. Maybe they even have an M50 sprinter I can beat!