Cover Story: Aging and competing

Carol Burchhardt, William Averill Jr. and Janice Bradley

Local Boomers & seniors to compete in senior games

By Greg Johnson

Photo by Bob Byrd

Battle Ground resident Janice Bradley spent years watching her children participate in track and field and soccer games. All the while, she kept thinking "I can do that."

Then she retired from her career as a medical technologist, had children and placed her athletic ambitions on the back burner. After her children grew up and moved on, she kept thinking "they got their genes some place and did pretty well in high school and college. So I started thinking maybe I can do it."

So when she turned 65, Bradley saw a newspaper article about the Washington Senior Games in Olympia and decided to enter. She initially worked with Olympia track coach Paul Kelly, who encouraged her to throw the discus. "Without an idea of what I was doing, I just threw it out there and he said 'I think you can do pretty well at that.'"

Now at age 75, Bradley looks back on 10 years of competing and winning awards in "all the throws" including javelin and discus throwing. Last summer, she qualified for the National Senior Games in Cleveland where she won 3rd place in her age category for the hammer throw. The competition involves rotating the body in circular motion while swinging a heavy ball in circular motion, then releasing the ball for maximum distance.

Bradley also made the finals in the 100 and 200 meter run, high jump and javelin throw.

Carol Burckhardt

Like Bradley, 69-year-old Ridgefield resident Carol Burchardt always enjoyed athletics. She played baseball and soccer into her 30s before getting wrapped up in her academic career as a professor of nursing at OHSU. She retired in 2006 at age 64 and moved from Portland to Ridgefield, where she learned about the Washington Senior Games. "So I went out and bought myself a discus, a javelin and a hammer," say Burckhardt "and that's how I got Started. Just decided I wanted to throw those kinds of things."

Seniors enjoy benefits of competition

Bradley and Burckhardt both believe boomer and senior-age participants receive a lot of benefits from their involvement in the Senior Games. "I have  a lot of fun because of the camaraderie," says Burckhardt. "The Senior Games is just a really fun activity...and a great group of people. You get to know the people, both the men and women."

"It keeps your mind active," adds Bradley.

"It's just a good all-around activity," says Burckhardt. "Winning isn't everything. It's just doing your personal best and enjoying the camaraderie. You need challenges when you get older...and this challenges your body as well as your mind."

Vancouver seniors get into a Pickle

Several local men have jumped into the brine of the senior games' pickleball competitions. Vancouver residents Dave McCormick, 52, and William Averill Jr., 64, will try their paddles this year, competing in pickleball during the Oregon Senior Games June 19-22 in Bend, Ore. While McCormick has competed in the Washington Senior Games in the past two years, this will be his and Averill's first visit to the Oregon games.

Dave McCormick

"I thought it was neat that they had a wide variety of sports involved over there," McCormick said of the Oregon games. McCormick, a truck dispatcher in Portland, chooses to compete in pickleball because of its similarity to several of his lifelong passions: golf, tennis and basketball. "The thing about pickleball is that it is very social and welcoming to new players," McCormick says. "It's very competitive though, and doesn't mean people don't try to beat your brains out; but at the end of all, it's a very social, very friendly group."

McCormick, who will complete in the 50-54 age category, won a gold medal in singles last  year at The Rally in the Valley tournament in Oregon. He observes the Northwest, especially Seattle, is home to some really good older pickleball players, "I would encourage anyone, be they senior or younger, to try ti or attend a competition. The nice thing about pickleball is you can play it for the first time and have fun in the first 15 minutes. It's really challenging...a lot of fun."

William Averill Jr.

Averill, a retired purchasing agent for Georgia Pacific, will also compete in the Oregon Senior Games pickleball competition in the 60-64 mixed doubles. He was the former club champion in tennis at Club Green Meadows in Vancouver for three years.

"Pickleball is a lot easier on the body than tennis," he said of the reason for his switch to the sport. Like McCormick, he also likes the camaraderie and association with new people. "It's a very fun sport and very competitive at all ages."

Background of the games

Almost 2,000 participants will compete in the multi-sport Washington State Senior Games during July 2014 at various sites throughout the Sound Sound.

The Washington State Senior Games is an all-volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging camaraderie through athletic competition and the Olympia spirit. The event assists in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and promotes positive healthy activities for the participants, their families and the communities where they live.

Events for the 2014 Washington State Senior Games include archery, basketball, badminton, bowling, cowboy action shooting, cycling, dance, golf, pickleball, power walking, race walking, racquetball, 5 and 10k runs, rock climbing, shuffleboard, soccer, softball, swimming, table tennis, tennis, track and field, trap shooting and volleyball.

Most of the Oregon Senior Games competitions run June 19-22. The 16 events include a 5k road race and walk, archery, badminton, bowling, cowboy action shooting, cycling, golf, over the line, pickleball, racquetball, shuffleboard, softball, swimming, tennis, table tennis and track and field.

Before 2014, Oregon was one of the only two states without a sanctioned State Senior Games. The Oregon Senior Games is officially sanctioned by the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) and is open to any athlete age 50 and over with no prequalification necessary. The top four finishers in most sports in each age group will qualify for the 2015 National Senior Games in St. Paul, Minn., on July16, 2015.

"We're thrilled to be reviving the Oregon Senior Games and brining them to Bend for the first time," said Kevney Dugan, director of Sales and Sports Development for Visit Bend. "This is an amazing opportunity to present a competitive yet fun and social event to an older set of visitors that showcases Bend as the ultimate outdoor playground."