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Participants in Senior Games are just jocks at heart

SALISBURY — The words over the loudspeaker at Livingstone College’s Alumni Stadium sounded as though they were the booming voice of God.
And God had good advice:
“Please make sure you are warmed up and stretched, so we don’t have any injuries,” the voice, belonging to Livingstone track coach Justin Davis, said.
Close to 60 participants showed up Tuesday morning for the track-and-field portion and official kickoff to the 2014 Salisbury/Rowan Senior Games.
Between 9 and 11:30 a.m., the senior athletes participated in a Silver Striders Fun Walk; a 1,500-meter race-walk; 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes; and a 5-kilometer run.
The field events included the shot put, discus, standing long jump and running long jump.
“I was praying this morning, ‘Don’t let me do anything stupid,’” 91-year-old Hazel Trexler-Campbell said.
For the first time this year, the “senior” age has been lowered to 50, (instead of a minimum of 55), and Senior Games Coordinator Phyllis Loflin-Kluttz said it has led to a growth in participants, though Rowan County isn’t hurting for that.
When all the Salisbury/Rowan Senior Games events are finished by the Victory Dinner May 22, more than 800 seniors will have competed in Rowan County alone.
It’s the biggest Senior Games program among the state’s 100 counties and comes in second overall to a program that actually combines a four-county area.
The cornhole competition today at Ellis Park has attracted 68 registrants; shuffleboard Thursday and Friday, 42; and miniature golf Monday, 65. Events continue through the rest of April and much of May.
“No way I could do this without the help of Livingstone and Catawba (College),” Loflin-Kluttz said Tuesday.
Students from both schools were working the track-and-field events with guidance from Davis, the Livingstone track coach. Loflin-Kluttz said Davis’ expertise also helped to give senior athletes some of the “professionalism” they will need when they compete on state and national levels.
“They are great,” Davis said of the seniors, after shooting the starting gun for the 200-meter dash. “They’re telling me all kinds of stories.”
The morning was filled with twisting, grunting, lunging, turning, sprinting and enduring — so Davis’ warm-up advice was well considered.
“I’m just a jock at heart,” 77-year-old Doug Lingle after throwing the shot put 30 feet, 4 inches. But he predicted the 1,500-meter race-walk and long jump would be his stronger events.
Lingle belonged to the legendary 1955 Rowan County American Legion baseball team, coached by Joe Ferebee. He moved back to Rowan County about four years ago after almost a half century in Maryland, and this was his first Senior Games.
He posted an impressive 6 feet, 3 inches in the broad jump — “just a little more than my height,” Lingle said — and 10 feet, 2 inches in the long jump.
Both Lingle and Garland Thomas sprawled into the sand pits on several of their jumps in efforts to get extra inches.
Thomas, 81, is a longtime Senior Games participant who predicted he would earn his 700th Senior Games medal today.
“Then I’m going to start playing golf like other old men do,” he said.
No Salisbury-Rowan Senior Games should pass without the mention of Trexler-Campbell and the Rev. C.P. Fisher Jr.
“I’m 69, and I have a hard time keeping up with her,” Vince Campbell said.
Trexler-Campbell competed in the first Senior Games in 1983, and since 1989, her talent in various events has led her to the national games every two years.
Her first husband, Lovie, went to all the nationals with her until his death in 1996. now it’s Campbell’s turn to look after this senior athlete, who broke her leg playing table tennis at the nationals last year.
She has exercised diligently to return and was able to run the 100-meter dash Tuesday morning, among other things. Of all the Senior Games medals she has won in three decades, Trexler-Campbell said she has turned most of them back in, except those she has earned on the national level.
She credits her parents’ good genes, “the good Lord” and the Senior Games for giving her such a healthy life.
“Exercise is so important,” she said.
Fisher, 95, ran the 100-meter dash, too, and posted a time of 54.97 seconds.
“That’s half of my age — that’s pretty good, isn’t it,” Fisher said. “… I don’t think I was breathing hard, was I?”
Four years ago, Fisher won the state medal in his age bracket with a time right at 50 seconds.
Fisher routinely jogs and walks for exercise on the East Rowan High track or in a Rockwell park. He passed down his running gene to his son, Clifford III: granddaughter Rebekah Julian; and great-grandson, Eli Julian, who competes nationally in AAU running events.
In coming days, Fisher plans to compete in cornhole, shuffleboard and miniature golf. A solid golfer in the past, Fisher has been practicing his putting stroke in the living room at home.
Trudy Gale, 55 and an experienced runner, was the only person competing in Tuesday morning’s 5K. She had to make 12.5 laps around the Livingstone track by herself, and she finished in 24:22. At the recent Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, S.C., Gale finished sixth out of 1,098 runners in her age group.
“It was terrible running by myself,” Gale said, but her time will qualify her for the state Senior Games in Raleigh.
George Kimberly, who lives in Mocksville but likes to compete in Rowan County, posted a time of 20.75 seconds in the 100-meter dash — a good time for an 81-year-old.
Kimberly started competing in the Senior Games 15 years ago, and it immediately helped him to lose 30 pounds. He also liked the social aspects of the games.
“My main thing is race/walking,” he said.
Dr. Bob Lewis and Paul Mehmed were in a dead heat during their sprint to the finish line in the 100-meter dash.
Lewis posted a time of 19.09, to Mehmed’s 19.11. They compete in the 75-79 age bracket.
Seven years ago, when he last competed, Lewis won the state bronze medal for his age in the 100, a silver in the 200 and gold in the 400.
Lewis keeps in shape by briskly walking a 4.2-mile route that takes him from his Salisbury home into Spencer and back.
Before doing anything Tuesday, Lewis, retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church, made sure to do one thing: stretch.
God told him it was a good idea.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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