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?)
Here’s how Pat was profiled in 1998:
Patricia Peterson, a sprinter from Albany, N.Y., looks every bit of her 72 years. Wiry, white-haired and wrinkled, she wears trifocal wire-rimmed glasses, no-nonsense short hair, no makeup, a navy blue polo shirt and shorts. But in competition, the old elf looks about 25 вЂ” arms pumping freely as she speeds down the track, long legs stretched out in graceful, ground-covering strides.
Peterson has been hooked on sports since she began officiating at basketball games as a seventh grader in 1938, and has used any resource she could muster for nearly 40 years as a teacher and coach to gain equal resources for women athletes. Her own sprinting career began in 1987 when, just for fun, she signed up at the New York State Senior Games.
Two years later, however, illness struck. вЂњNon-Hodgkins lymphoma is the kind of cancer that doesnвЂ™t go away,вЂќ she notes. Chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and support from her church, family and friends have pulled her through two bouts with the disease. After the first, she recovered enough to win medals at the 1995 WAVA Games. And after battling back from cancer a second time, she competed at Durban, winning three gold medals and setting an American age-group record in the 400 meters.
Hope to see you at nationals, Pat! Keep pumping those arms.