Register by March 10 for the 2016 Wake County Senior Games
Barbara Latta was a school librarian when she found out her boss, the principal, would be racing in the Wake County Senior Games. She jumped at the chance to join in.
“I had been a runner for two years before that, but there weren’t many races back then in Wake County,” she said. “So I signed up for the 3,000-meter race and the half marathon. That was in 1985.”
Now age 74, Latta has competed in the games’ track and field events ever since, and even thrown javelin just for fun. The Senior Games offer something for everyone, she says.
“The games are the only time in our state that seniors can do track races. You can sign up for every distance from 100-meter to the 5K. They also have bike races and race walking,” said Latta, who runs daily at 5 a.m.
“Some people are very competitive, and know to the thousandth of a second where they feel their time should be. Others come out just for fun.”
Those who come in first, second or third place in an event in the Wake games qualify to compete in state games. Winners there can go on to nationals.
“To see people in their 80s running and racing, that’s the best thing about the Senior Games,” Latta said. “And that I’ve met friends with whom I keep in touch.”
60 Different Events
Judy Meister of Fuquay-Varina, 68, was recruited to the games by her financial advisor about six years ago. Today, Meister holds gold medals in basketball, golf and pickleball.
“I branched out,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve played a cornhole too. There are 60 different events in the Senior Games, like hiking, swimming, horseshoes and archery. And you don’t have to be an athlete — we also have the Silver Arts, for photography, quilting, line dancing and lots more.”
Meister also coaches the games’ age 75-79 women’s basketball team, which was the subject of a 2013 documentary by Angela Alford titled Granny’s Got Game.
“The best part of the games is the camaraderie and the friends you make,” Meister said. Having competed in national games in Cleveland and Minneapolis, her Senior Games friends can be counted all over the country.
“Don’t be concerned about skill level; it had been 40 years since I played in college,” she said to others considering the games. “There are no tryouts; it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are. We have 100-year-olds taking part! Try whatever interests you, and just come to have fun.”
Registration for the 2016 Wake County Senior Games is open through March 10. The games will be held throughout the month of April across Wake County, with competitions separated by gender and age in categories from 55-59 to 80-plus.
In 2015, some 600 seniors participated in the Wake County Senior Games while hundreds more, of all ages, cheered them on.
Lamar Marshall was there, and will be again this year. At 60, he says the games are an opportunity to maintain his passion for basketball.
“I’ve been playing all my life, and was looking for an outlet when I saw a poster about the Senior Games,” he said. “I like the competition and meeting other people. Everybody is pleasant. You can sit down and talk to them after the game. We make friends and bonds, and that is awesome.”
Marshall notes this Senior Games catchphrase, a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”
“To see people older than me participating is inspirational. It maintains your health and your mindset,” he said. “Just keep going, because you can still do it.”
To learn more about the Wake County Senior Games, visit wcseniorgames.org or call (919) 469-4081.