Emil Pawlik gets some ink, at last, in local paper

Everyone in masters track knows Emil Pawlik, the down-to-earth and friendly multi-event star and world record holder (and recently minted Masters Hall of Famer). Now his hometown paper has discovered him as well. The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., did a wonderful montage to acompany the story, and gave it a great headline too: “Track and field master/He’s the Bruce Jenner of the 65-69 age division in the decathlon and pentathlon.” Michael Wallace wrote the story.

Here’s the piece:
About the last thing anyone will ever catch Emil Pawlik doing is acting his age.
“I guess that means I’m supposed to be sitting on the couch somewhere developing a big old rear end,” said Pawlik, a 67-year-old Jackson resident. “I’m still young. That’s not for me.”
The only thing growing for Pawlik these days is his legendary status in the sport he’s grown to love-one hurdle, javelin throw and pole vault at a time over the past 20 years.
Pawlik is one of the top track and field athletes in the world at the Masters level, designated for competitors who are at least 40 years of age. He’s the Bruce Jenner of the 65-69 age division in the decathlon and pentathlon.
And according to his results in recent years in USA Track and Field indoor and outdoor events, he’s become like cheese or fine wine: Pawlik appears only to be getting better with time.
Pawlik was inducted last summer into the USATF’s Masters Hall of Fame. He’s now gearing up for what he hopes will be yet another season of runs into the record books. Pawlik is training about 15 hours a week in Jackson to prepare for the 2006 World Indoor Masters Athletic Championships at Austria in March.
But first, he’ll have to let himself off for a few days from his job as president of Hughes Eastern Corp., an oil and gas producer in Jackson.
“Of course, it all depends on if he stays healthy and who else shows up, but Emil always goes in very confident and well prepared,” said Karen Huff-Pawlik, Emil’s recent bride, long-time personal track coach and fellow Masters competitor. “He’s such an extraordinary athlete in his age group. We’re really hopeful he’ll be successful.”
While his level of fitness is exceptional for a senior citizen, Dr. Mark Meeks said he’s seeing more and more seniors who are realizing the benefit of shedding the outdated expectation of them sitting on the front porch in rocking chairs during their golden years.
Meeks, director of the Division of Geriatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said many seniors are using physical activity as a way to slow down the clock on aging.
“There is good medical information now that there is significant benefit to remaining active and fit,” Meeks said. “The benefits are some of the same benefits you see in younger people, such as being less likely to get heart disease and strokes and to help control blood pressure and prevent obesity.”
Meeks said there also is evidence that shows older people who maintain physical fitness are less inclined to decline in their gait ability, meaning they’re less likely to have trouble walking as they get older.
“In addition to physical fitness, people are less likely to develop dementia if they are physically active,” Meeks said.
Meeks, who specializes in taking care of people over age 65, said he encourages his patients to walk at least 30 minutes to an hour each day and to engage in some weight-bearing exercises as well.
“Even in your 90s you can see benefit from exercise,” Meeks said.
Pawlik’s benefits from exercise have been immortalized in the record books.
According to the USATF’s Web site, Pawlik set American indoor records last March in Idaho for his division in the 60-meter hurdles (9.69) and the multi-event pentathlon (4,401 points). He followed that up with another stellar performance in the World Outdoor Championships at Spain in August. Pawlik set a world record in his division in the decathlon, scoring 7,909 points. He also won the gold by setting an American record in the 100-meter hurdles (15.81).
In all, Pawlik holds American records in four different events over three different age groups. That includes a 10-year-old mark he set in the indoor pentathlon at Greensboro, N.C., at age 57 while competing in the 55-59 age division.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t compete in sports until he walked onto the track team at Texas A&M in his senior year. Pawlik, who is of Polish decent, said growing up on a farm in Texas didn’t give him a lot of free time to compete in sports.
But working on the farm and walking three miles to and from school each day built the endurance and determination he runs on today.
“Growing up, he was always a little skinny kid, and he wasn’t that active in high school,” said Lil Hargis, Pawlik’s sister who lives in the Houston, Texas, area. “I guess you could say he’s quite the late bloomer. He’s really developed into a great athlete.”
And Pawlik has no plans to slow down anytime soon.
“I hope to be doing this up into my 80s, as long as God gives me the health and strength,” Pawlik said. “I feel younger every day. I feel like I can do more and more. When I was young, I thought 67 was ancient. But it’s amazing that the body will let us older people do what we’re doing.”

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February 7, 2006