Q&A with former sprinter Myrle Mensey, new AoY as a thrower
Myrle Mensey of Missouri, who recently was named USATF Masters T&F Female Athlete of the Year, says she started sprinting at age 50. But three years later, she ruptured an Achilles’ tendon and pivoted to throws. But she hasn’t given up on running â€” even as a record-setting thrower. “I’ve suggested to the Throws Committee that throwers need to have a throwers relay event at the National Throws Championship,” she says in my final Q&A with USATF Masters Athletes of the Year. “I think I’m still kinda fast, but nothing longer than 60-100 meters.” Myrle, a former teammate of mine with the Southern California Striders, is an even greater advocate for girls. Her foundation won an award in January for its work. Myrle is grateful to be honored as a thrower, but she’s not done yet. She aims to take down W60 and W65 indoor records on both sides of her birthday in February.
Masterstrack.com: You were among many American women setting records this year, so was the USATF award a surprise?â€¨
Myrle Mensey: Yes, it was a surprise. Most of the time this award is given to a runner or jumper. I thought I had received the ultimate award when I was awarded the 2013 Tom Gage Thrower of the Year Award at the National Throws Championship. To be recognized by my peers in the throwing sport as a great thrower and athlete was the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me, so I thought. But this award is even bigger than that. As a thrower you really have to have a stellar year to beat out runners and jumpers. I’m just glad to have the honor to represent all throwers as well as all female masters athletes.
Among the contenders for the award was Carol Finsrud. Â Do you get a chance to compete with her? Â What do you think of her talents?
Carol is a great thrower. I have admired her throwing abilities for a long time. We don’t get to compete together because she is 10 years younger and most of the time the age break-off is 60. So I haven’t had the opportunity to see her throw that much this year. Carol broke my record in the weight in the 55-59 age group last year, so this year I thought I would give her something else to shoot for when she turns 60. Hopefully I pushed it out far enough to make her really have to work hard to get it, and all the other records I set this year.
What did you consider your best performance this year, and why?â€¨
I guess I would have to say the 17.78m (58-4) in the weight throw although I was really excited about breaking the record in the throws pentathlon (by 314 points) and ultraweight pentathlon (by 255 points) by such a large amount. Missing the world record in the weight by 6 centimeters (2 inches) is heart-breaking. I tried again in October, but it didn’t happen. I had to realize that I peaked three times this year, which is a lot and each time I set records and to do it again in such a short time was highly unlikely.
I set records in May at the Southeastern Masters, In July at the outdoor nationals and then in August at the throws pentathlon. I had my eye on the throws pentathlon record ever since 2009 when they took the record from me and re-scored it with the 2010 new tables, which made Mary Hartzler beat me by 4 points. So to break it in May and then again in September was a good feeling.
Throwers often compete out of the spotlight. Â What does this award mean to you, since you beat runners and jumpers?â€¨
It’s a great feeling to get recognized as a good athlete, not just a good thrower. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. I’m sure some of the masters athletes don’t even know who I am.
Since you set the 2013 records at age 64, what are your goals for W65?
â€¨I age up in February, so I will compete indoors in two age groups. How exciting. Should be pretty interesting. I have my eye on the indoor world record in the weight W60 and W65. I’ve even got my eye on the W65 American record in the shot and superweight.
How is your Throwing and Growing Foundation growing? How many girls involved now?â€¨
The foundation is going very well. We are preparing for our 4th annual Winter Throws Camp for Girls on Dec 27-28 in St. Louis. In January 2013, the foundation received the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. State Celebration Commission’s Women who Dare to Dream – Distinguished Service to Youth Award. What an honor. The foundation continues to provide mentoring, educational, nutritional information, leadership, sportsmanship and physical training through participation in the throwing events for girls ages 8-18.
How do you avoid injuries in such grueling events as the superweight at throws pentathlon? Â â€¨
I really don’t practice throwing heavy. I basically work on strength, speed and technique. I throw the 16 lb as a warmup for the 12 lb. And then maybe once or twice prior to a meet throw the 20 lb. The 20 lb is really tough on the body and it really isn’t necessary to practice throwing it. If my strength, speed and technique are on cue, I can throw anything at any weight without practicing that weight. I also have a chiropractor on my Board of Directors, who makes sure I stay injury free.
How often do you train, and what is your favorite workout?â€¨
I work out with my strength and conditioning trainer two times a week year-round. Cardio once a week and then in throw two to three times a week depending on how close the meet is. I also throw year round. Lots of footwork. I love to lift. I’m a hard worker. My trainer calls me a beast. I train a lot of girls in the throwing events and I am constantly demonstrating and that just improves my performance. They really keep me on my toes.
What should USATF do to get more older women involved in the throws?â€¨
It’s going to be tough. Most women think it’s a sport for the strong and mighty. Maybe have some introductory classes to expose them to the throwing events by showcasing some of the older women that are already involved. My mother threw for the first time this year at the Missouri State Senior Games at age 87. Set three state records in shot, discus and javelin, with only 2 minutes of practice before each event. Of course she been watching me for 15 years. But that also shows that it’s not impossible and you are never too old to try something new. It’s suppose to be fun; then you get serious.
What should World Masters Athletics do to grow the sport of masters track?â€¨
Reduce entry fees, length of days for the meet and the expense associated with competing on that level. Most masters athletes won’t go if they don’t think they have a chance of at least making the finals. You really almost need a sponsor when you get to the elite level. The events are so spread out you really can’t make it a vacation unless you stay over a couple more days.
Anything else you’d like to share about your special year or masters track?
I still have a passion for throwing and throwing better. I finished high school before Title IX. I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in sports in college. Started throwing at age 50, but was already physically fit from bike riding, tennis, soft ball and distance running (5K, 10K, half-marathons). I started sprinting at age 50 and in 2002 at age 53 I had a total ruptured Achilles running the 200. That ended my running days, although I’ve suggested to the Throws Committee that throwers need to have a throwers relay event at the National Throws Championship. I think I’m still kinda fast, but nothing longer than 60-100 meters. Well, maybe not that fast; I don’t want anybody to try to put me to the test!