Still dominating

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hazel Trexler-Campbell’s first love might be horseshoes, but her true love is table tennis.

“I’d rather play this than eat when I’m hungry,” she said with a sly smile. “I’m serious about it.”

The 90-year-old Salisbury woman heads down to City Park Center from 6 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday to practice the sport with her husband, Vince.

“She lets me win every once in a while,” Vince, 69, said.

The couple will play doubles during the 30th annual Salisbury-Rowan Senior Games, which start Wednesday.

Hazel will also step out alone to play singles, throw a shot put, bowl, show off her skills at bocce and compete in a basketball shoot.

During the weeklong games, Hazel will compete in 23 events.

“I still try to do the 100 meter dash because Vince thinks I can,” she said. “He says ‘Hazel, you can do it.’ He gives me incentive.”

Hazel is the only person who has participated in the local games since their inception in 1983.

“I like to compete to tell the truth about the matter,” she said. “Isn’t that what life’s all about, competing?

“I grew up in a house with eight children, so you learn early to compete.”

Hazel decided to try her hand at the Senior Games 30 years ago when she saw an ad in the Post.

“I started with horseshoes because that was something I played when I was young,” she said.

Next, Hazel started playing shuffleboard at Rufty-Holmes Senior Center.

Throughout the years, she’s tried just about every sport imaginable.

“I do it for the same reason you want to taste different foods, to see if I like it I guess,” she said.

But Hazel hasn’t tried her hand at racquetball.

“I like the look of it, but I don’t want to get hit in the head with a ball,” she said.

Hazel’s always been athletic, playing basketball for three years at the former Cleveland High School.

“I would’ve dropped out of school had it not been for basketball, it kept me awake and interested,” she said. “I still wear my class ring.”

At 60, Hazel decided being part of the Senior Games would be a good way to get more exercise. She was right.

“It makes me feel better,” she said. “I’m not one to sit still, that’s part of the reason I play the games.”

During the off-season, Hazel heads to the J.F. Hurley Family Y to swim, walk and work out on various pieces of equipment.

Hazel and Vince enjoy heading to Woodleaf Lanes during the winter months to practice their bowling skills.

“I haven’t been bowling much lately, so I’ve been using a 10-pound ball, but I don’t get as good pin action,” she said. “I like the way the ball curves with a 12-pound ball.”

Hazel also gets exercise simply by doing her job.

She works part-time five days a week cleaning at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

“That can be quite a workout, at least the vacuuming,” she said.

Hazel said she credits her parents with her good health and longevity.

“They both lived into their 90s,” she said. “They taught me to work and take care of myself.”

Hazel isn’t a stranger to the state and national Senior Games, where Vince believes she’ll end up this year.

“My mother said ‘Let’s talk about it when it happens,’” she said.

She currently holds the record for longest discus throw in the nation in the 85 to 89 year old age group.

“The air got under that discus and just went and I broke a record,” she said. “That surprised me, I didn’t believe it until it came out in the result book.”

Hazel still remembers the time she scored a 636 during a state-level bowling match.

“The lanes were perfect, it wasn’t anything I did,” she said.

Although Hazel prefers to win, she’s not a sore loser.

“I just enjoy the games, it doesn’t bother me to lose anything,” she said. “I came up in a school that got best sportsmanship in basketball.”

But in order to up her odds Hazel makes it a point to practice with the best whenever possible.

“When you play with somebody that’s really good it makes you do better,” she said. “That’s what I’ve learned.”

When Hazel isn’t practicing for the Senior Games or working you won’t find her lounging on the sofa.

“I don’t even look at TV except for sports and ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” she said.

She attends both Faith and First Baptist churches and has been taking tap dancing at Donna’s Dancers for the past 15 years.

“I’m a firm believer in dancing,” Hazel said. “Dancing makes you think.

“Dancing is the second best thing to table tennis.”

Hazel said there is a place for people who love to dance in the senior games’ Silver Arts competition.

“So many people say they are not athletic if you confront them about the Senior Games,” she said. “I say they can create.”

Art categories include visual, literary, performing and heritage.

“Some people like to sing and dance, I don’t fault them for that,” Hazel said.

Hazel said she enjoys the camaraderie of the Senior Games, where she’s met many friends throughout the years.

“The Senior Games is a very good program,” she said. “I’m thankful for it.”

Contact Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.