Saluting Charles Ross, who survived 16 events — and three wars

M85 multi-eventer Charles Ross of the Atlanta TC competed in 16 events at Sacramento. Yes, 16 (winning seven golds, six silvers and two bronze.) Perhaps the most decorated athlete at nationals, he’s in the Hall of Fame. But not ours. Charles fought in three wars, and is among the oldest members of the Army Ranger Hall of Fame. So when it comes to surviving brutal heat and heavy action, retired Lt. Col. Charles Ross has seen a lot worse than masters nationals. Meet referee Murray Sanford, a fellow Georgian, told me about Charles. Lydia Woods sent me the articles below. He’s not a superstar in any event, but he stays in the game — running every event from the 100 to the 10K and steeple. And doing most jumps and throws. Attention! This gent deserves it.

Charles Ross (between William Ballantine of Golden West and Tom Patsalis of SoCal in the 100) was a warrior at Sacramento. (Photo by Ken Stone)

Here’s the whole story, in case the link goes south:

At 87 years old, Conyers resident living his life at a fast pace

Beth Sexton, Staff Correspondent

Too many gold, silver and bronze medals to count. Holder of national record titles in 1-mile, 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter runs and the 2,000-meter steeplechase. Champion in pole vaulting, running and the high jump. Favored to win this month in regional track and field events.

Who is this Olympic-worthy athlete? Eighty-seven-year-old Lt. Col. Charles G. Ross of Conyers.

Not one to sit around and grow old, Ross lives up to what one imagines a retired U.S. Army Ranger is supposed to be in his golden years.

A member of the Atlanta Track Club for 17 years, Ross first became involved in competition when he learned about the Georgia Golden Olympics six years ago at the Olivia Haydel Senior Center in Conyers.

He signed up for six events at the contest in Statesboro and won six gold medals later that spring. The following year he signed up for 15 events and won 14 gold medals.

Ross continued to rack up the gold medals and compete in more senior athletic events, including his first steeplechase run last year, which resulted in his being ranked No. 1 for his age bracket in the USA Masters Track and Field events.

Up until his first Golden Olympics game, Ross had never participated in such competitions, except running — a favorite past-time for more than two decades. Winning so many track and field competitions has shown Ross to be an extraordinary athlete at a decidedly late stage in his life.

As a young man, Ross, an Indiana native, enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army and was commissioned through Officer Candidate School. He distinguished himself on the battlefield, earning two Purple Hearts and commanding several companies during his military career.

He was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame for his service during three wars, including WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Ross retired from the military in 1972 and moved with his family to Georgia. He and his wife of 53 years, Joan, are the parents of Alexandra, Steven, Andrew and Katheryn, and the grandparents of four.

Perhaps Ross’ military training and determination are part of the reason he is able to face overwhelming odds in these latest physical endeavors.

Last June, he participated in the Alabama USA Track and Field Masters Championships. During the pole vault, after he made his all-time highest jump, Ross ran to clear the bar at an even greater height and tore the muscle in his left calf.

Back home, Ross saw a specialist and began physical therapy. He had his eye on the USA Masters Track and Field Championship set for July, days after his injury.

“I had intended to use those days for intensive training, however, for 18 days, I was unable to jog a single step,” he said.

“My training for the remaining 14 days was limited to two short sessions of throwing the hammer, an attempt to high jump off my right leg and four short 20-minute sessions of 50 percent jogging and 50 percent walking. When I tried to tighten up my calf muscle in my left leg, it stayed soft and flabby and I briefly considered whether or not to go.”

Determined, Ross made it to the championship and entered his first event — the 5,000-meter run, which is about 3 miles. He said he wondered if his leg would even allow him to finish the run.

Ross not only finished, he won the gold. He entered nine events and won nine medals — seven gold and two bronze, taking home awards in running, a 2,000-meter steeplechase, pole vaulting, the hammer throw, a 400-meter dash and the high jump.

“The idea that I was able to do that was unbelievable to me,” he said. “I had a certain amount of pain and I took it day by day.”

The USA Masters Track and Field 2009 Outdoor rankings show Ross is No. 1 in the country in the 85 to 89 age group in four events: 1-mile run, 5,000-meter run, 10,000-meter run and the 2,000-meter steeplechase.

In 2009, Ross qualified for 14 track and field events in the State Senior Games, participating in five events in last summer’s National Senior Games. He won two gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals.

In the USA Track and Field State Level Championships and in the Georgia and Florida Golden Olympics, Ross has won gold medals in his age group in 18 track and field events, including the 100-meter dash, the 5,000-meter run, the discus, the triple jump and the pole vault.

In the 85 to 89 age group, Ross has won first place in a half-marathon at Robins Air Force Base, a 10-mile run in Washington, D.C. and the 15,000-meter U.S. Army Ranger Mountain Run at Camp Frank D. Merrill in North Georgia.

At September’s awards dinner for the Georgia Golden Olympics, Ross was presented the Barney Ochs Sportsmanship Award, given to the athlete who demonstrates a love of the games, enthusiasm for life and consideration for others.

The USA Masters Track and Field consists of local, regional, national and international competition opportunities for athletes 30 years and older. Masters meets typically include sprints, distance running, hurdles, throws, jumps, racewalking and relays.

“I do a lot of different events,” Ross said. “Usually a lot of guys specialize in one thing like javelin or shot put. Some specialize in two or three things. I like doing all of them. I’d like to do the decathlon. I’ve got gold medals in nine out of 10 events.”

The Senior Olympian has a definite philosophy that goes along with his success.

“Every person is unique,” he said. “Most don’t know what they can do until they try. I believe it’s better to try and fail than to not try.”

Ross also adheres to the belief that “we are what we eat.”

“Beware of the three S’s — salt, sugar and saturated fat. I eat fruits and vegetables and read the labels on everything. I get my sleep — eight hours a night. I train a lot. I just joined LA Fitness and work out three times a week,” said Ross.

“I try to do the very best I can. I try to win. I take these things seriously.”

Ross’ breakfast foods include bran flakes, shredded wheat, bananas, raisins and skim milk. Lunch is usually a banana and small orange with steamed frozen vegetables, with occasional beans and brown rice. Dinner includes chicken or fish with very little red meat. Powerbars are also a staple of this athlete’s diet.

“I really try to stay healthy,” he said. “I’m looking at the future. I’d still like to compete when I’m 90.”

Here’s how Charles is described in his Ranger Hall of Fame citation:


Lieutenant Colonel Charles G. Ross is inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame for distinguished service during three wars. During World War II, LTC (then Platoon Sergeant ) Ross was commissioned through Officer Candidate School. He was wounded in action during the Bougainville Campaign and participated in the invasion of Leyte Island where he was wounded in action a second time.

He assumed command of and led his Regimental Recon Platoon on a sixteen day raid behind Japanese lines where he orchestrated a successful link-up with a local guerrilla battalion.

Recognizing the reluctance of the guerrilla battalion commander to engage enemy forces, he motivated that battalion to begin operations against the enemy. Lieutenant Colonel (CPT) Ross served three tours during the Korean War. He was the last commander for both the Eighth Army Ranger Company and the 1st Airborne Ranger Company.

He commanded the 2nd Division Recon Company during his second tour. At war’s end, he was commanding a rifle company in the 31st Infantry Regiment. During the Vietnam War, LTC Ross served two combat tours commanding Special Forces “C” Detachments. Lieutenant Colonel Ross’ entire military career is an outstanding example that “Rangers Lead The Way!”

And here are Charles’ results in Sacramento (not including any relays):

M85 100 Meter Dash
85 USATF: * 16.22
Name Age Team Finals Wind
1 Ballantine, William M85 Carmichael, CA 20.40 0.6
2 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 21.40 0.6
3 Patsalis, Tom M88 Alhambra, CA 22.34 0.6

M85 200 Meter Dash
85 USATF: * 34.41
Name Age Team Finals Wind
1 Ballantine, William M85 Carmichael, CA 44.77 -1.5
2 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 48.78 -1.5
3 Patsalis, Tom M88 Alhambra, CA 55.32 -1.5

M85 400 Meter Dash
85 USATF: * 1:24.18
Name Age Team Finals
1 Ballantine, William M85 Carmichael, CA 1:51.39
2 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 2:01.60

M85 800 Meter Run
85 USATF: * 3:28.15
Name Age Team Finals
1 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 5:30.38

M85 1500 Meter Run
85 USATF: * 7:19.80
Name Age Team Finals
1 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 10:35.35

M85 5000 Meter Run
85 USATF: * 25:47.54
Name Age Team Finals
1 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 36:42.38

M85 10000 Meter Run
85 USATF: * 54:19.28
Name Age Team Finals
1 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 1:25:19.84

M85 2000 Meter Steeplechase
85 USATF: * 14:28.93
Name Age Team Finals
1 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 15:43.57

M85 High Jump
85 USATF: * 1.16m

Name Age Team Finals
1 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 0.76m 2-06.00
— Warren, Richard M86 Los Osos, CA DNS

M85 Pole Vault
85 USATF: * 2.24m
Name Age Team Finals
1 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 1.00m 3-03.25

M85 Long Jump runway 1
85 USATF: * 3.46m
Name Age Team Finals Wind
1 Patsalis, Tom M88 Alhambra, CA 2.59m +0.0 8-06.00
2 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 1.57m +0.0 5-02.00
— Warren, Richard M86 Los Osos, CA DNS NWI

M85 Triple Jump runway 2
85 USATF: * 7.78m
Name Age Team Finals Wind
1 Patsalis, Tom M88 Alhambra, CA 6.06m +0.0 19-10.75
2 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 4.24m +0.0 13-11.00

M85 Shot Put 3K
85 USATF: * 10.42m
Name Age Team Finals
1 Mulkern, Richard M85 Sheffield, IA 8.55m 28-00.75
2 Pistorino, Charles M87 McLean, VA 7.48m 24-06.50
3 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 5.26m 17-03.25

M85 Discus Throw ring 1
85 USATF: * 30.81m
Name Age Team Finals
1 Mulkern, Richard M85 Sheffield, IA 24.90m 81-08
2 Carter, Bill M87 Marlow, OK 18.95m 62-02
3 Pistorino, Charles M87 McLean, VA 18.52m 60-09
4 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 9.61m 31-06

M85 Hammer Throw
85 USATF: * 32.20m
Name Age Team Finals
1 Mulkern, Richard M85 Sheffield, IA 26.50m 86-11
2 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 9.62m 31-07

M85 Javelin Throw 400G
85 USATF: * 26.16m
Name Age Team Finals
1 Pistorino, Charles M87 McLean, VA 18.72m 61-05
2 Mulkern, Richard M85 Sheffield, IA 18.27m 59-11
3 Ross, Charles M87 Conyers, GA 10.03m 32-11

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August 8, 2010

13 Responses

  1. Jerry Smartt - August 8, 2010

    BIG congrats to Charlie. He’s a cool one. He’s in all of my events AND THEN SOME.(^_^). He makes my six events at Sacto feel like…well…six event, as in, FEW. Stand tall, tall guy. Smartty

  2. Jerry Smartt - August 8, 2010

    OOPS! I missed a plural. Six events second verse.

  3. Rob D'Avellar - August 8, 2010

    Bravo, Lt. Col. Ross. You were obviously a role model during your military career and you continue to be a role model as an athlete.

    Shattering stereotypes about what older people can do (whether in athletics or other endeavors) is important, and Charlie blasts stereotypes out of the water. A real hero.

  4. don burkett - August 8, 2010

    As a member of the Atlanta Track Club, it is my honor and pleasure to know and compete with a GREAT AMERICAN like Charles. He is a dedicated athlete and a true inspiration to others, especially when we think that it is tough to compete as a masters athlete. Charles is the MAN!!!!! God Bless and here’s too many years of competition.

  5. buzooti - August 8, 2010

    Lt. Col. Ross, you, sir, are an inspiration!

    Stay well.

  6. Andrew Hecker - August 8, 2010

    I’m going to add, I observed Mr. Ross (OK, Lt. Col. Ross) at the triple jump. They were calling his name while he was still on the track doing the 10,000. When he finished the 10,000, he barely broke stride jogging across the field to take his one attempt, literally minutes after completing our longest distance race (at least it wasn’t a 6 mile march with heavy pack). A couple of decades ago, I attempted to do the Steeplechase followed by the Triple Jump (with a mere hour’s rest). A couple of years later, as I mentioned once before, I also did a 5,000 racewalk followed by a quick drive across San Diego, climbing the fence to get to the start line of the 400 Hurdles just before race time. This was when I was in my 30’s–from the opposite side of the age spectrum, with significantly longer recovery, I learned a painful lesson that I cannot come back from (lesser) distance races and be capable of performing in more ballistic events. I’ve taken those kinds of doubles out of my repertoire. Based on my experience, what the Lt. Col. did was superhuman.

  7. Vance Jacobson - August 8, 2010

    I am a Vietnam combat veteran (m60-64) and can relate to Col Ross accomplishments long before masters track. Col Ross, the 5th mechanized infantry salutes you. My accomplishments seem small to these!

  8. Mike Gottardi - August 10, 2010

    If I am lucky enough to make to my 80’s and still be competing in the sport I love, I will have as much endurance! I take my hat off to you. More importantly, thank you Col. Ross for your years of service and sacrifice to this great nation so that we can go out and enjoy the freedom to compete in masters track.

  9. Trenice Mullis-Dubow - August 15, 2010

    Way to go, Charles! You carried our ATC competitive team to 4th place at Nationals.

  10. Hetty Walker - December 19, 2012

    congratsa Charles just read about all you do . I wish you the best.

  11. 90-plus-year-old men set 3 world relay records at USATF Masters | OlympicTalk - July 21, 2014

    […] Ross fought in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War and is in the Army Ranger Hall of Fame, according to […]

  12. Eric Lawson - September 24, 2016

    Got to meet Lieutenant Colonel Ross today by chance. Extra special person to talk to…true grit guy!

  13. Mary Hoffman Lemberger - February 8, 2017

    Cousin Charles, hope you are still running!

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