We have work to do: Folks still don’t know about masters track

I’ve had this experience. So have you, probably. You’re training at a local track in your colorful meet T-shirt. Another older adult asks you: Are you a marathon runner? Nope, sprints and jumps. Which leads you to describe masters track as your new friend’s jaw drops. I’m reminded of this scenario by a story in the Kitsap (Wash.) Sun. M70 jumper Roger Vergin of Poulsbo is profiled, and the story reports: “Vergin didn’t participate in track and field in school — he didn’t even start running until he was in his 30s and even then he was a middle-of-the-pack runner — and started his track career two years ago when he noticed another member at his gym wearing a Bremerton West Sound Senior Games T-shirt. ‘I didn’t know that such competition for seniors even existed,’ Vergin said.” This should give everyone in USATF leadership pause. How do we reach folks like this?

Roger jumps at the 2009 Bremerton West Sound Senior Games.

John Oleski of Boston has been working on a DVD about USATF masters track — meant for wide distribution and showings to community groups nationwide — but I don’t know its status.

Still, how do we grow our niche if folks like Roger were unaware of us until two years ago?

Here’s the story in case the link goes buh-bye:

Age Is a State of Mind for Masters Track Athlete

By Annette Griffus

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In just two short years, Roger Vergin of Poulsbo went from novice to national champion.

And it looks like the 72-year-old retired college professor is just getting started.

Vergin won the triple jump with a 27-foot, 4-inch jump at the recent USA Track & Field National Indoor Masters Championships in Boston. He also earned a bronze medal in the pentathlon, a bronze in the 60-meter hurdles and was fourth in the long jump.

Vergin wasn’t the only Kitsap senior to participate at the Boston meet. George Roudebush, 84, of Bainbridge won the 60-meter hurdles, took second in the high jump and finished fifth in the shot put.

Also, Bainbridge’s Vance Jacobson helped the U.S. to a gold in the 800 relay at the World Masters Indoor Athletics championships last month in Kelowna, B.C.

Roudebush, who ran the hurdles in college at Denison (Ohio) University, joked that his decision to go without spikes and getting over the first hurdle led to the win.

“I was surprised to get first,” he said, “because other guys were doing pretty well.”

Vergin didn’t participate in track and field in school — he didn’t even start running until he was in his 30s and even then he was a middle-of-the-pack runner — and started his track career two years ago when he noticed another member at his gym wearing a Bremerton West Sound Senior Games T-shirt.

“I didn’t know that such competition for seniors even existed,” Vergin said.

He went on the Internet, looked at the results from the previous year and decided to give track a try.

“The result was about what you’d expect from someone who had not adequately prepared a 70-year-old body for vigorous physical effort,” he said. “I pulled a groin on about the third jump.”

Vergin sought treatment, got better and began training seriously.

“A little bit of success got my competitive juices charged, and I decided to really give it a try,” he said.

Vergin participated in the 2009 Bremerton West Sound Senior Games and won the long jump, triple jump, the 50-meter run and finished third in the shot put. His success led him to participate in the Puget Sound Senior Games, Washington State Championships and several Senior Olympics in Washington, Hawaii, Arizona and Montana.

Vergin finished 2009 with 57 gold medals, six silver and two bronze in 66 events. He also achieved USATF All-American status in nine events; 60-meter dash, 100 meter, 200 meter, long jump, high jump, triple jump, hurdles, decathlon and pentathlon.

That haul includes a silver from the decathlon at the USATF decathlon national championships in Shoreline, an event he led after the first day.

“It was my best performance of the year,” Vergin said. “I didn’t feel bad at all about a second-place finish. To finish second in the country is a pretty good outcome, when you consider that I wouldn’t have finished in the top 10 in my own high school if we had held a decathlon.”

Vergin said like most boys, he wanted to be an athlete, but he wasn’t good at sports in high school.

“It has taken me 70 years to find my niche,” he said. “Yet, with all this success, if I went back to running 5K or 10K road races, I would still finish in the middle of the pack. Those many years of 100 mile-a-month training are behind me.”

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April 8, 2010

7 Responses

  1. Jimson Lee - April 8, 2010

    Whenever I say I am going to Boston or Masters in March, they immediately think of the Boston Marathon, or Augusta Masters in April.

  2. Eric Negley - April 8, 2010

    Unfortunately, I too did not know Masters track existed until I came in 2nd in the pole vault in my home Georgia Games in 2007. My wife, Bev, told me to either figure out a way to train (find a facility to vault at more than once a year – at the meet itself) or quit whining. So, I researched on the internet and discovered Masters track and field. I entered my first USATF meet in Savannah in April 2008 and earned a Gold in my age group on borrowed poles from a fellow competitor (great sportsmanship!). That experience has fueled me to compete at the national and world level in 2008, 2009, and 2010 with some humbling successes (and failures). If USATF wants Masters to grow then maximizing ways to advertise their existence would seem mutually beneficial to USATF and to the Masters athletes.

  3. Vance Jacobson - April 8, 2010

    I ran in high school, college, and the Army so you would think I would know about masters track. Wrong. My first masters meet was in 1998 at the World Masters Games – and it was a classmate in Eugene who told me about the competition. It was an Australian who told me about USATF masters track. On marketing, need to incent existing members to recruit new ones, find a way not to humiliate new members, and quit printing clothing logos with USATF – noone knows what that means.

  4. Milton Girouard - April 8, 2010

    Everytime I throw at the University of Colorado Open Initationals, I get approached by parents of the University athletes I’m competing against (Mostly the Mom’s trying to get their hubby’s off the couch). They’ll congratulate me and say they wish they could compete again in some event, if just to stay in better shape. That’s when I write down Masterstrack.com and the USATF website for them to see what’s available to them. For more publicity, It wouldn’t hurt to send ESPN a short video of about 5 to 10 seconds of an amazing accomplishment that a masters T&F athlete did, to possibly put in the “Top Ten Finishes” list they do daily and weekly on their news broadcast or “Sports Nation” that is a hour long broadcast on ESPN as well. But they really have to be in the “WOW!” category of video clips or they will never take Masters Track seriously and make a joke of it. An American record , World record or close to it would be good. Sprints, jumps and throws, like Roald Bradstock type of “WOW!” I think would work best because of the shortness of the video clip. Something to think about…

  5. KEITH MCQUITTER - April 8, 2010

    I Have been running masters track from the time I hit 30 till now will be 51 soon some one alway ask me sone lamb quist are you the track coach,did you use to run in the olympips how many 50 year old cats do you see running 10 200m sprints 30 sec or less or at my age run hurdles like a high school kid would like, it comes with the sport, its nice to hear them go wow your realy in your 50s.

  6. KEITH MCQUITTER - April 8, 2010

    its fun some times

  7. Jerry Smartt - April 9, 2010

    Interesting to hear about folks “discovering” Masters T&F. I’m right at age 79 and will begin my 63rd year of competition this May. I began running Masters track in the mid ’60s in California. It definitely wasn’t a mystery. Many of us ‘look but don’t see’ things.

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