Ready, set, race

Athletes keep old age at bay with sports, attitude

Special to The Sun City PacketNovember 2, 2012 

Cyclists get rolling at the start of the 10-mile race during the 16th annual Beaufort-Jasper Active Adult Challenge in Sun City Hilton Head. The challenge is a 10-day event for athletes age 50 and older.

PHOTO BY GWYNETH SAUNDERS

Ray Herring looked no worse for wear at the end of the 10-mile cycling race followed by the 3-mile walk, two of the opening events for the 16th annual Beaufort-Jasper Active Adult Challenge.

"I feel good," he said after he wheeled his Schwinn mountain bike across the finish line at the 45-minute mark. "It didn't feel too good while I was out there, though. Seemed like the wind was in my face all the way."

Herring, 90, had an excellent chance to earn medals in those two activities and did -- winning the gold for both. There were eight athletes age 90 and older registered for the games. There are bragging rights and medals at stake for athletes in Beaufort and Jasper counties age 50 and older.

Individuals age 50 or more are eligible to participate in 61, Olympic style events in 34 sports or activities held across Jasper and Beaufort counties. Athletes have the opportunity to win gold, silver and bronze medals, walk in the Parade of Athletes and participate in the closing celebration with dancing, cocktails and appetizers.

For many, however, the challenge is more about cheering for friends and spouses than participating.

Herring and his wife, Jenny, 87, recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. She cheered him on and was at the finish line waiting for him. The couple have participated in the adult games for several years and both will participate in some of the croquet tournaments.

"I can't do a lot of things with this cane," Jenny Herring said. "But I can still play croquet. It's something you can play no matter how old you get."

Ethele Brown, 86, might be crossing mallets with Jenny Herring because she, also, is signed up for croquet. And putting and dominoes.

"I've been participating (in the adult challenge) for 12 years," Brown said. "I like it because it's fun."

Leslie Murphy picked up two event packages that included participant shirts, race numbers and instructions for everything the athletes needed. Murphy and his wife were signed up for the 3-mile walk in addition to other events.

"I think it's fun and maybe one year I'll try to win," Murphy said. "I don't really take it too seriously."

Dick and Betsy MacDougal have been competing in the games for five years. Dick MacDougal said he likes the games and he is the defending golf champion in the age 80 and above category.

"It keeps me young," he said. "A couple of years ago I decided I'd do everything for the fun of it, and I got a bunch of medals. Now I don't have anything to prove."

Both will play mixed pickelball and Betsy MacDougal will compete in women's pickelball doubles.

Doug Shatto is a cardiac patient determined to get the most out of life. He promised his doctor he would keep his pulse at 120 bpm or lower if he could get permission to walk in the 3-mile event.

"I could die just hanging out, so I may as well be doing something," he said after crossing the finish line with a time of 59:50.

Martin Rogers of Sumter won his 60-64 age group and finished fourth overall in the cycling competition. This is his fifth year participating in the adult challenge and he loves it.

"It keeps me in shape, keeps me young and I can talk some smack with those 35-year-old guys," he said as he cheered on the 3-mile walkers. "I'm going to let age catch up with me."

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