Don ‘Boomer’ McCrea tells bipolar battle in accepting national award

Boomer and his plaque.

Boomer and his plaque.

A month ago, M75 multi-eventer Don “Boomer” McCrea traveled from his Oregon home to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to accept a major geezer sports award: Male Adult Athlete of the Year for the National Congress of State Games. It’s kind of like the Senior Olympic circuit, except all ages compete. Boomer beat out 33 other state nominees, so it’s a notable honor. But even more praiseworthy is Boomer’s acceptance speech, which includes this revelation: “I knew I had problems early on, but I hid it until I was 50 years old, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t chosen sports instead of drugs and alcohol as many others have done. We didn’t talk about mental illness in the 1940s and ’50s, but I’m talking now and I’ve survived thanks to sports.” Bully for Boomer!

Here’s how the State Games of Oregon announced his award. Transcript of his talk follows.

BEAVERTON, OR, September 15, 2016 — One of our very own athletes has been named Adult Male Athlete of the Year by the National Congress of State Games (NCSG)! Out of 34 nominees (one from each state offering a State Games event) the NCSG chose Don “Boomer” McCrea from Oregon.

If you heard Boomer’s current list of athletic accomplishments, you’d likely underestimate his age — by a lot. In 2016 alone, competing in six different State Games of Oregon Track and Field events wasn’t quite enough… so he competed in Diving as well, taking home two gold, three silver, and one bronze medals overall. He’s also an avid swimmer and would have competed in that event, as he has in previous years, had it been available this year. Outside of our events, he’s also kept busy this year competing in the:

  • Prefontaine Classic
  • Hayward Classic
  • Oregon Senior Games (Swimming and T&F)
  • Portland Masters Track Championships
  • Washington Senior Games (Swimming, T&F and Football Throw)
  • SeaFair Pole Vault Exhibition
  • State Games of Oregon (Diving and T&F)
  • Seattle Classic
  • USATF Nationals Decathlon (finished 3rd)

Boomer also competes at the national level in Swimming and Track and Field, quite successfully, having earned an astonishing 20+ All-American awards from USATF — for which he credits “Jim Thorpe: All American” as his inspiration from a young age. The movie inspired him so much so that, in the third grade, he made his own pole vault with two broomstick handles, string, and another broomstick handle as the pole. He’s carried that same initiative and passion with him ever since!

With his approach to sports — “Have fun and don’t get hurt!” — Boomer entirely embodies what the State Games are all about. For more than 20 years, he has been a completely loyal participant and mentor to younger athletes — especially those with autism and other learning disabilities. His service to athletes with disabilities started one day, out of the blue, at a local high school while simply getting a football workout in. After meeting a young kid there with autism (who seemed to know all college mascots from around the country, Rain Man style), the kid then asked Boomer to show him how to punt a football.

Boomer was more than happy to help, and he hasn’t stopped since. He is willing and eager to discuss details and techniques with those looking for guidance, and he unknowingly builds camaraderie in the process. We are fortunate to have him participate with us every year and set such a positive example of sportsmanship.

Outside of competing, Boomer enjoys football, basketball, lifting weights, riding his horse, Rowdy, and staying strong in his Christian faith.

And did we mention he’s 75 years young?

Here’s Boomer’s talk in Atlantic City:

I’d like to thank the National Congress of State Games for this honor, especially Kerry Duffy and Dan Duffy from the State Games of Oregon for all their support.

Bear with me, this might be a little tough – I just turned 76 September 19th.

I didn’t plan this, God did.

I was born in 1940 in a little town in central Oregon called Redmond.

In the third grade, I knew I was blessed with natural ability.

I had my own little five-man football team and my own football playbook – which I still have.

I was all over the place, the gymnasium, the football field, mascot of the high school basketball team, part of the tumbling team for the high school, on the trampoline, also swimming and diving at the age of 5.

Everything was too easy for me.

I saw the movie “Jim Thorpe: All American” and knew that’s what I wanted to do — be an All American. It took me until age 62, but I’ve now made All-American over 20 times in pole vault.

I was blessed to have great coaches in my life, such as Archie Dunsmoor who knew me from the 1st grade on and gave me a trophy before he passed, that said “Life Time Athlete.” It was enough being a high school star. I was recruited by University of Washington and University of Oregon – not Oregon State – I don’t like orange and black.

I knew I couldn’t handle it in the classroom, so I didn’t go.

God didn’t want me to go to college or the pros. He wanted me to have the feel of everything, football, basketball, track & field, swimming & diving and riding my horse Rowdy. I went sport by sport and continue to do so. I want the feel of everything.

Others wanted me to teach and coach – but Karen said: “He still wants to play.”

Years ago, I had a classmate tell me: “Boomer, not everyone gets to live their dream.”

I try to put a smile on a face every day and above all, have humor!

I believe you need to “use it or lose it” and “keep the heart pumping.”

I knew I had problems early on, but I hid it until I was 50 years old, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t chosen sports instead of drugs and alcohol as many others have done. We didn’t talk about mental illness in the 1940s and ’50s, but I’m talking now and I’ve survived thanks to sports.

Have fun and don’t get hurt is my motto.

My ex-mother-in-law told me years ago that Joe Montana looked like me and played like me. I’ll take that to my grave.

The state games of Oregon and Washington, Masters swimming, diving, and track and field really saved my life and gave me the opportunity to compete, have camaraderie with other athletes and kept me active.

This is my Heisman trophy.

(Talked about “my love, my life — Karen”)

I’m grateful for this award.

Thank you and God bless!

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October 24, 2016

10 Responses

  1. ventsi - October 25, 2016

    Nice speech. Every sports-oriented person will like it.
    Life dedicated on sport.
    His faith in God is impressive.
    Impressive personality.

  2. Bob Hewitt - October 25, 2016

    Well deserved, Boomer. No one has more fun at a track meet.

  3. Jerry Huhn - October 25, 2016

    So proud of you Bommer. I love competing with you in track and field, plus the football throw. See you in the Spring. And may the Lord bless you always, your friend, Jerry

  4. V. Amarasekara - October 26, 2016

    Congratulations Boomer!

    I’ll see you out there.


  5. Bob Sheedy - October 26, 2016

    Boomer …what a great speech…you and I have been competing as friends against one another for a long time…my best memory is at
    Gresham when we both started to PV at about 6′ and it seemed a
    hundred jumps later we both cleared 9-6……magic height magic memory

  6. pat lawson - October 31, 2016

    As a friend , from Redmond, I have always been impressed by your accomplishments, and still am. Very Proud and Happy for you. Well deserved.

  7. Justin King - October 31, 2016

    Well deserved honor. I’m proud of you continuing to compete at this level.

    It was great fun being a running back in the backfield that you quarterbacked in Redmond on a team that finished 8th in the final state poll. We had a good 880 Relay team, too!

  8. Gyna walton - April 30, 2017

    What an amazing man! Met him through the USATF Masters meets and he is truly an inspiration and pushes me at 45 to have fun and not get hurt! Congrats Boomer!!

  9. nancy a erdman june 14, 2018 - June 14, 2018

    IT was a pleasure talking with you at costco yesterday, you gave a wonderful speech which i just read. You are the best!!! and what and look at all you have accomplished in your life time. very proud and well deserved. Keep going you have a lot of life in you still. iMay the lord bless you in all ways. congratulation!!!!

  10. Michael Jaqua - June 24, 2018

    I’ve known Don for at lest 20 years from my affiliation with Masters Track and Field. Always a kind word for a fellow competitor, always a cheerful attitude, always willing to lend an ear or share some advice and/or encouragement.
    This honor is well-deserved.
    Congratulations Boomer!
    See you at the track!

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